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Well, Now, This is Interesting….

I was scouring the web, looking for information on period boots, and I stumbled across Francis Classe’s excellent page. This is a picture that I have never seen anywhere else before.  It’s charming, but it’s quite odd.  I wish I had far more information on it, but Google doesn’t seem to know anything about it!

Spanish Ladies in Chopines and Farthingales
Spanish Ladies in chopines and farthingales, from . (Spanish Ladies, watercolor, c 1540, Museo Sibbert, Florence)

There are a couple of interesting things going on here.  Firstly, the lady on the left is clearly preggers. Secondly, all of these women are portrayed with a farthingale visible, either because an overskirt has been tucked up or because it’s not being worn.

The original caption looks to be german, and if it’s really from 1540, it’s entirely possible that the artist never went to Spain.  (Period books on costume from foreign places have an awful problem with that. It’s like the artists just asked sailors what people wear around the world.)

It’s a charming little print, none the less. It makes me wonder if the super-long length of the Alcega farthingale was to accommodate extra height from the chopines. Italian ladies certainly had skirts long enough to cover theirs; perhaps upper-class spanish ladies did as well.


  1. Chris
    Chris November 1, 2010

    Actually, I saw this at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto- they had a exhibit of chopines and other renaissance platform shoes, along with some related works of art.

    There were also some fabulous paintings of women believed to be wearing chopines because of their ridiculous height, but they couldn’t be sure because their skirts hit the ground. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember their origins.

  2. missa
    missa November 2, 2010

    Neat! Thanks for the info, Chris. I know it happened in the Italian states – there are some fabulous illustrations by Vecellio and a particularly adorable example with a “fold-up overskirt” on an illustration of young lady of a particular profession. I just had no idea it happened in Spain. (I should have guessed, given the huge cross-over between styles in the two areas, but I’d not seen anything like this!) I’m so jealous you got to see it at exhibit! :)

  3. Matt P
    Matt P December 1, 2010

    The hanging braid down the back is reminiscent of some of the pictures from Christoph Weiditz who did actually travel through Spain. Is it possible the caption is Dutch/Flemish rather than German? Charles V did bring many Flemish with him when he took the Spanish throne.

  4. Jesús Izco
    Jesús Izco December 6, 2011

    I am interested in the handcrafted use of the cork for a publication on Quercus.
    I request permission to publish the image of his page webb, with indication of his origin.

    Thank you. Best regards

    Prof. Jesús Izco
    Department of Botany
    Univ. of Santiago de Compostela

    • missa
      missa December 7, 2011

      This site is under Creative Commons (Attribution, Noncommercial, Share-alike), so feel free to use it for any academic purposes. I think you might need to contact the museum holding the original painting. If you’re covering historical uses of cork for fashion, I would love information on how to get a copy of the finished work.

      (Mind you, I’m still not 100% that I’m responding to a human and not a bot, but what the heck….)

  5. missa
    missa December 7, 2011

    Hi, Matt,
    Thanks for the info – that puts a whole new spin on the believability factor for the image! *laugh* I guess now I’m looking for someone who speaks Flemish. It can’t ever be easy, can it? :)

  6. inge
    inge February 28, 2012

    Missa, the original caption is definitely German.. from the 16th century.. the letters are a little fuzzy so I couldn’t read it all and the spelling is somewhat different from modern German just like old English is different from modern English

    • missa
      missa March 4, 2012

      Hi, Inge,

      Thanks for the confirmation on that! I’ll try tracking down a clearer version of the image to see if I can get sort out the actual letters. :)

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