ca. 1555 Caterina de' Medici by ? (Galleria degli Uffizi - Firenze, Toscana, Italy)


This may be the most lavish dress ever portrayed. If Mikimoto had not developed cultured pearls, this pearl and sapphire dress could buy any air force a top-of-the line jet or a billionaire a big garage full of Ferraris in today's world. This portrait shows economic and political power married to each other.

Upgrade image posted 27 March 2014 from Wikipedia.

ca. 1555 Caterina de' Medici by ? (Galleria degli Uffizi - Firenze, Toscana, Italy) Wp

Besides being opulent, her gown is a tour-de-force in mid-century fashion. It has an early, conical, farthingale swelling from her hips, puffed and slashed false sleeves matching her kirtle, a French hood, and a full ruff made with an early form of lace such as point de Venise.

According to Herbert Norris in Tudor Costume and Fashion, "The dress is of black velvet, entirely covered with a trellis-work of pearls, with sapphires in gold mounts set at the intersections; the spaces in between are embroidered with a design in gold. The full-busted bodice is close fitting at the sixteen-inch waist, and cut very wide at the neck opening, which is filled in at the sides with a quilted partelet of gauze with sapphires and pearls. A small upstanding collar of gauze, partly goffered and edged with lace, surrounds the sides and back of the neck, leaving the throat bare. The sleeves are turned back with ermine and have a square effect. The false sleeves are of pale pink satin, treated in the same manner as the underskirt, or kirtle, which is of the same color and material, and decorated with a trellis work similar to the over-dress, but enclosing embroidery of silver in a different design. The kirtle is widely distended over the Spanish farthingale. A girdle of pearls and sapphires is connected down the front, emphasizing the decided long point to the waist line of the bodice, and terminating in a beautiful cross ornament of gold set with sapphires and pearls. The French hood, decorated with the same gems, but without the tubular part, is worn, and the queen holds in her right hand a large fan of ostrich tips, fixed to a rigid handle of gold set with jewels to match her dress."

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