I wrote a bunch of this in January, then, apparently, forgot all about it. This is not the 1490s fashion draft post I thought I had waiting! Anyway, some sleeve talk.
This project consumed a lot more of my time and attention than I expected, although some of that actually went to starting a new job. (Also, the dress was not the only project I was doing for the same deadline! I’ll post some of the writing I did as part of the same project at some point too.)
But, for now, here are a collection of portraits whose sleeves I studied to determine the proper way of closing detached, open sleeves in and around the 1490s in Italy, plus some side commentary about necklaces. Note that this is not a representative sample of common styles, or of the full range of sleeve options, just a selection of portraits that could teach me what I needed to know. Except the weird back of shoulder shape. I didn’t figure that one out.
There are a lot of pictures, so I’m going to experiment with the format to make it less vertically long.
(left) Dark solid sleeve and red solid dress, no border trim. Note the weird shape at the back of the shoulder. Lacing crosses every couple inches. Necklace: short string of pearls, gold pendant near the main string, three pearls hanging from it. Also, narrow belt worn at or above natural waist over gamurra with front and side lacing.
(right) Sleeve: single piece for top and bottom. Looks like it might be open in front and back? Closed up the back of the arm with lacing (probably points?), large but even spacing with no extra space for elbow. Necklace: short string of pearls (or round beads or stones), longer separate fine chain or string that hangs in a point at dress neckline. Lady in back has a cross-like pendant on a medium length chain or string.
(left)Same-color sleeves attached at top of shoulder, red (shoulder) or black (arm) laces crossed or as points (opposing pairs of eyelets connected by short strings, rather than a single long string closing the whole space). Points appear to go all the way around the elbow (no large billow of fabric escaping). No necklace.
(right) Similar-color patterned sleeves attached at the shoulder with contrasting ribbons. Necklaces: long fine chain supporting complex multi-stone pendant with hanging pearl that reaches below dress neckline. Very long string of paired dark beads. This may be Ippolita Sforza, of whom there is a similar portrait showing a different striped-sleeve dress with the same necklace.
(left) Dark, solid-colored sleeve attached to medium or light tone patterned (brocade) dress with lots of ribbons (at least 4, about twice as frequent as on the previous portrait). Necklace appears to be a short string of medium or large pearls possibly supporting a fine chain with one or two pendants.
(right) This sleeve has some unusually shaped pieces. Joined at the shoulder, back of arm, and inside of elbow with many fine points (no attachment at outside of elbow). Opening at back of upper arm may not go all the way up; possibly the sleeve is a closed tube at the very top of the arm? Joined with fewer points at the forearm and above the elbow in back. Sleeve pieces same color as dress body. No necklace.
(left) Sleeves appear to match dress body in color, texture, and elaborate trim. Joined at shoulder with narrow ribbons and at elbow and forearm with ribbon or string. Points with bows tied in the middle of the opening (not the usual style). Wrist closed more closely, maybe with hooks and eyes. Necklace is a single very long double-looped strand of round black beads.
(right) Solid color sleeves contrasting solid colored dress with border trim. Sleeves attached with narrow ribbons at shoulder and elbow, points at forearm. Concave edges between shoulder points. Camicia does not extend past outer sleeve at wrist. Necklace: short fine chain with no pendant, long fine chain with pendant hidden inside dress bodice.
(left) Single-piece sleeve of same single color brocade as body of dress (or maybe the same color and a different brocade; sleeve appears to have a stripe motif that’s not obvious in the skirt). Laced at wide intervals up the back of the arm, closed at the wrist, with a long spill of camicia (or Spanish equivalent) between wrist and next closure. No necklace, unless you count the big chain-of-office ornamentation.
(right) Dark brocade or patterned sleeve attached at shoulder to solid colored dress with border trim by widely spaced fine points. Necklace: medium length strand of pearls with complex pendant with black and red stones and single hanging pearl.
(left) Beatrice d’Este was on the cutting edge of fashion. Elizabeth Birbari’s Dress in Italian Painting 1460-1500 cites multiple letters between Beatrice and her family members that tell of serious drama and intrigue in dress design. Here, it appears she has decided nobody is going to have more stripes or ribbons than her. Interestingly, that may be a yellow dress with stripes sewn on, not a dress made of striped fabric. Anyway, complex sleeve, two pieces (top and bottom) that join very closely at the elbow, and each has a slit along the side of the arm which is closed with ribbons, plus the usual forearm and back of arm closures. (I’m guessing about the back of the arm, but there are extra ribbons coming from behind her elbow.) She is wearing two necklaces, one a choker beaded in a lacy geometric pattern and the other a long string of beads (hanging to her waist) strung in a pattern that matches the neckline trim of her dress, with a red pendant.
(right) More ribbons and unusual stripes. This sleeve appears to be made in multiple layers (not counting the camicia under it), the uppermost layer being sewn on stripes or slashed fabric, the openings joined with square jewels. It also looks like the stripes on those stripes have been varied, by complex weaving or tailoring. Joined at the shoulder with at least 4 narrow ribbons. Two necklaces: a short string of large pearls from which a large pendant of three stones set in gold is suspended by a short fine gold chain; a very very long (hangs past her waist) string of small black round beads.
(left) One more Beatrice. Here you can much more clearly see the “short pearl necklace with pendant hanging from it by single chain” style. It looks like the pendant here may be hanging from a silver bead between the pearls.
(right) Sleeve is made of a matching brocade, but not the same one– note that the motif is a smaller size, scaled suitable for the arm. Joined at the shoulder with three ribbon points through eyelets in the fabric, note the detail here! Also note that these are tied differently than the other ribbon ties, laced in pairs creating rectangles like points where other dresses have had the ribbons pass through a single set of eyelets, tied in a slipknot with the knot at the top of the shoulder. In fact, more like the ribbons at the back of Bianca’s sleeve. The opening at the back of her sleeve is fairly wide. Necklace: in the same style as Beatrice’s, a short string of pearls from which a multi-stone pendant hangs by a tiny chain. However, the large pearl at the bottom may be hanging separately from the fine string or chain running just below the pearls. Beatrice may be winning at stripes, but I think Bianca is winning at pearls. Look at that headpiece.
(left) Bianca has toned it down a little here; solid colored dress with contrasting solid colored sleeve, attached with ribbons (note the concavity again). Three necklaces, or maybe two if the long (waist) and short (choker) pearls are the same string. Pearls plus a wide flat chain supporting a complex pendant, gold with four silver crosses and three hanging pearls. I’m not sure if the bit above the pendant is the other side of the same chain, or is connected to the short string of pearls.
(right) Last one. No sleeve commentary this time, although the dress– dark brocade with a red velvet overdress, maybe, with pale lace trim– is quite lovely. A challenger to the pearl throne, this woman is wearing a short string of small pearls, a slightly longer string of medium pearls with an oval pearl and ruby pendant, and a long string (just past dress neckline) of medium pearls with a cross-shaped pearl and ruby pendant.