Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lazy S pattern for the camicia

Plate from Vavassore "Corona di Racammi" originally published in 1530
I love the 100 or so books published in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries jam packed full of embroidery patterns. After spending a couple of years collecting links and hard copies of them it is always exciting to have a project to use them for.  I considered just selecting a random pattern from one of the modelbuch published before 1545 to embroider on the cuffs and neckline of my camicia. I was seriously tempted by several from Engelnuff. (Yes, I do have a favorite modelbuchlein. Yes, I realize that says something about me.) After taking the excuse to browse through modelbuch for a few hours, however,  I went back to what was depicted the portrait. I was actually a bit disappointed by that. Here's a reason to utilize all this other data and I'm just squinting at the portrait?

The camicia has a simple scroll pattern of Ss on their side. There are quite a few lazy S and simple scroll patterns in the earlier books and I had originally pulled 5 or 6 to look at with various levels of simplicity, including a couple that added a flower or a heart and a few that omitted the acanthus style flourish. After looking at them a time or two I decided not to use them. This one from Vavassore is pretty much a dead ringer for the portrait and once I'd decided to do the S style, it only seemed right to do the exact pattern. But you have to admit, being able to find the exact pattern is at least sort of a good use of far too much research, right?

Closeup from Anea's site
The biggest reason for settling on the lazy S was balance. The pattern is actually rather plain and compared to the hundreds of other choices. It is just an s on its side with a tiny amount of flourish. I think with the overblown presence of the dress fabric, that's probably a necessity visually. If the embroidery was polychrome or more figural like several of the borders I was tempted to do are, it would get lost against the dress. The camicia is a contrast to the scrollwork and texture of the dress. It is simple. The sleeves aren't even gathered at the cuff. I was surprised to notice them coming out of the bottom of the sleeve floppy and a bit rumpled looking with no cuff or gathered frill.  I think the counter balance of the organized pattern and the informal finish helps sell the dress. it's also refreshing to see in all the uptightness of the mannerist portrait and I like that.

The best view I can get of the top edge of the camicia is from the Detroit Institute of Art portrait, There are two versions of the double portrait, one in Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one in Detroit. There is also a third portrait of just Eleonora in the dress painted posthumously. It is in the Wallace Collection in London. The Detroit portrait isn't quite as finely done as the Uffizi. If you are interested in finding out more about the differences between the two double portraits and seeing how the workshop of Bronzino was more involved in the Detroit version, there's an interesting article from the Journal of the American Institute of Conservation authored by Serena Urry comparing the two portraits and pointing out paint burs that show how the background was done and the faces left for the master. It also points out mistakes in the pattern of the dress fabric as well as looking at the simplification of the embroidery so it looks less three dimensional as compared to the Uffizi portrait. The Detroit loses the acanthus flourish and is a great deal more boxy. The extant published modelbuch, Furm-oder Modelbuchlein by Schonsperger published in 1523 has a pattern very similar. (Top one of the 3, although the bottom is a nice lazy S as well.

I like the Uffizi version via Vavassone a  bit more I think. What I don't like nearly as much is that either way, the cuffs and top edge are my least favorite blackwork type-- counted and reversible. I rather detest counted blackwork and have sworn off it. The cuff is turned up with a fully visible pattern showing in all 3 portraits, however. It is most definitely reversible. Sigh. I guess getting the correct look for things is why I embroider in the first place.

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