RENAISSANCE GIRDLES, PENDANTS (MIRRORS, BOOKS, WATCHES, SCENT-CASES, AND POMANDERS)

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings

THE girdle is an important ornament in the dress of the Renaissance. From the beginning of the sixteenth century it differs considerably from the medieval pattern already discussed. In place of the stiff hoop about the hips, it was worn loosely across the body from above the right hip down towards the left thigh, where the upper garment was passed over it in a light fold. At this point was the clasp, from which hung numerous small articles necessary to the active housewife. Another style of wearing it, which appears to have been adopted for more sumptuous dress, was one where it more firmly encircled the body, and from a clasp in front, hung down in a long end, terminating in a special ornamental appendage—a scent-case or pomander.

The common material was leather or stuff, such as was employed for men’s girdles. The long and narrow thong of leather was worn by all classes. The majority of Renaissance girdles, confined solely to female attire, were made entirely of silver or silver gilt, and even of silvered or gilded bronze. They took the form of flat chains composed of links, generally with solid pieces in the shape of oblong plaques, of cast or chased work, introduced at regular intervals. The solid parts, particularly those that formed the clasps, were occasionally enriched with enamels, precious stones, or engraved gems.

The majority of collections contain specimens of such girdles; but simpler kinds, composed entirely of ring-shaped links, which, judging from numerous Flemish, Dutch, and German portraits, must have been in very general use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, are much less frequently met with. A good example of such, a chain in silver-gilt, of German work of the second half of the sixteenth century, is preserved at Brussels.

It is formed of rounded grooved links. At one end is a rosette-shaped girdle plate set with a white crystal, and having a hook behind to catch into any link of the chain. The other end terminates in a pear-shaped pomander divided for the reception of different cosmetics into two parts.

A considerable number of girdles of leather or strips of material are found mounted after the medieval style with buttons or studs, and instead of clasps, have buckles at one end, and at the other the pendants common in earlier times.

It is not unusual to meet with girdles of Flemish or German work which, though dating from the latter part of the seventeenth century, are ornamented with Gothic patterns. The buckle and pendant {mordant), deeply pierced with open-work tracery of flamboyant design, are generally united by only a short thong, and are so overcharged with ornament that it is doubtful if they could have been of any practical use. Such objects appear in reality to be but specimens of their work submitted by girdlers who were desirous of obtaining admission to the Girdlers’ Company.

They serve to show how long-lived were Gothic traditions among the guilds. Examples in silver or bronze gilt are to be found in the Germanic Museum, Nuremberg, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wallace Collection, and in many other public collections.

A number of articles, both useful and ornamental, were suspended from the girdle. For practical purposes the housewife carried at her side, besides a knife, such objects as small scissors in a case, a purse, and also her keys. Cases for knives were attached either by silken cords or by chains. When cords were employed the cover was furnished with loops on each side through which the cords slid.

Open quiver-like sheaths for knives hung by chains were often worn, in order to display the rich decoration of the knife-heads. The Italianate costume, such as is found in the type of ” Vanity” in emblem books of the age, and which made its way everywhere, favored the addition of many other accessories to the girdles, such as fans, gloves, looking-glasses, books, watches, scent-cases, and pomanders.

Mirrors, besides being worn from the neck, formed, as did miniature-cases, a frequent pendant from the girdle. These were either in a frame of ivory or goldsmith’s work, or inserted in the fan. Their handles terminate with small rings for attachment by a chain to the girdle. In the Louvre is an interesting pendent mirror-case, or rather back of a mirror, formed of an oval plaque of glass encrusted with designs in enamel on gold.

RENAISSANCE GIRDLE PENDANTS bearing inscriptions, and small books, mainly devotional, were also worn at the girdle. It appears to have been a common practice for ladies to carry such books. Queen Elizabeth had several. Among the jewels given to Queen Elizabeth in1582, was “a little book of gold enameled. Diamond and rubies, with clasps all hung from a chain of gold.

The inventory of the jewels of the Duchess of Somerset, widow of the Protector, in 1587, likewise contains a book of gold enameled black. Two drawings for small pendent books intended to be in black enamel appear among Holbein’s designs for jewelry in the British Museum, and the Earl of Romney possesses a small manuscript Prayer Book in binding of enameled gold of the same style. The most magnificent book-cover in existence, provided with loops for hanging by a chain to the girdle, is one preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is of enameled gold, and has been ascribed to Cellini. Of less beauty, though of great interest as an example of English work, is the gold binding of a pendent Prayer Book in the British Museum.

The subjects on the sides, raised and enameled, are the Brazen Serpent, and the Judgment of Solomon, with English inscriptions around. It is said to be the work of George Heriot of Edinburgh, and there is a tradition that it was worn by Queen Elizabeth. Whatever associations this object may have had with Elizabeth, there is better authority for such with regard to the small book of prayers, the property of Lord Fitz-hardinge, and one of the Hunsdon heirlooms.

This very interesting English jewel is of gold, inlaid with black enamel, with a rosette of white enamel at each corner. The center of one cover is decorated with translucent red and green enamel, that of the other with a shell cameo. It contains the last prayer of King Edward VI in MS. written on vellum.

Though occasionally worn suspended from the neck-chain, watches appear to have been more frequently carried at the girdle—a position somewhat similar to that which they subsequently occupied upon the chatelaine. The honor of the invention of portable timepieces is probably due to Peter Henlein, of Nuremberg, in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, but it was not till a century later that they came into anything like general use.

The cases, which received the same beautiful enrichment in the way of enamel-work and precious stones as was bestowed on other personal ornaments of the time,were made to emit the sound of the ticking and striking, and the lid was pierced with an aperture over each hour, through which the position of the hand might be seen.

Not only square, oval, octagonal, and cruciform watches occur, but some in such fanciful shapes as death’s-heads, books, shells, acorns, tulips, pears, etc.; while rock crystal (to render the works visible) and other stones were often converted into cases. Oval watches, known as ” Nuremberg eggs,” are usually reckoned among the earliest, but this title was not given to watches till some time after their invention. All egg-watches that have been preserved belong to the seventeenth century.

In Hollar’s set of plates of the Four Seasons, dated 1641, the lady representing Summer has on her left side depending from her girdle an object of this shape, apparently a watch. The most important pendent ornament to the girdle, from the present point of view, is the pomander, the early history of which has already been alluded to.

Throughout the sixteenth, and until about the middle of the century following, the pomander formed an almost invariable adjunct” to the girdle, and was occasionally, in the case of men, hung to the long and heavy chains worn at that period round the neck.’ Most of the pendants still termed pomanders were, as has been already noted, in reality cases for scents or different cosmetics; but from their fruit-like shape, though often innocent of the original pomander ball, they have retained the title, but solely, it would seem, in our own language. I will have my pomander of most sweet smell, also my chains of gold to hang about my neck said many of this period of time.

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings

Advertisements

Author: connielimon2014

Bead Jewelry Artisan, mother of one daughter and grandmother of two grandsons, daughter of Korean War Veteran.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s