In the Renaissance society, clothes, fabrics and jewels were among the main criteria to distinguish different social clusters.
During the XVI century, luxury women’s clothes as well as embellishments and jewels became more and more sumptuous: this is due to the influence of elements coming from France and Spain.
We can follow the path of the XVI century fashion along the corridors of the Uffizi Gallery: three paintings will show the main changes occurred in this peculiar, fast-paced timeframe.
During the first half of the century, sottane (skirts) were often worn without any velvet decorations and necklines used to be wide and squared, as shown in the portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi, painted by Agnolo Bronzino.
In the portrait of Eleonora di Toledo, Bronzino’s painting captures the dimensionality of the broccato (brocade) embroidered alla spagnola (according to Spanish trend). This is probably a way of celebrating the Florentine silk industry, decayed in the first difficult years of 1500 and later reborn under the reign of Cosimo I. Bronzino mastered the art of depicting details: a pomegranate motif stands out in the middle of Eleonora’s chest, representing the idea of fertility.
In the second half of the century, following the Spanish trend, squared necklines were replaced by new, pointed ones with embroidered collars and later with pleated ruffs. This peculiar change in fashion is visible in the portrait of Isabella de’ Medici painted by Alessandro Allori in 1560.
As jewels are linked to fashion, they change depending on the different styles of different ages. For this reason, jewels had a relevant role in Italian society during the Renaissance, also thanks to economic prosperity and the discover of new worlds full of raw materials.
The design was generally bold and elegantly simple and the majority of jewels were not complicated, because the great importance was given by the quality of the stones themselves.
In the XIV century Italy increased the trade with other countries and in this period gems stood out, mostly table cut but some round-shaped; necklaces were very rich and even elaborate, often with enamelled roses and flowers.
Around 1460, the most popular pendants were heart-shaped and jewels were frequent wedding gifts, rings were worn wherever possible and sometimes several on one finger.
Bracelets were often with sapphires and pearls and even enamelled with bands of color. Earrings were worn just at the end of the 1400s, becoming fashionable among Italian ladies and, by the middle of the 1500s, earrings were quite normal.
Pearls were popular both among women and men. They were worn in the hair, but also as necklaces, on brooches and other pieces of jewelry. Their shapes were usually round and often the larger one might be teardrop-shaped, as you can see in the portrait of of Barbara Pallavicino, by Alessandro Araldi, done in 1495. Her necklace is made of pearls, with dangling stones ending in a clear stone.
For images: https://www.wikipedia.org/