Late Medieval Fashion Redressed

My Honeymoon and Medieval Clothing—Seeing the Charles de Blois Pourpoint

(Link to a new article on the pourpoint of Charles de Blois is at the bottom of this post.)

It’s been far too long since I blogged, but I promise I have some good content to share. There will be a series of posts about the amazing medieval things I saw in Mantova, Venice, and Prague on my honeymoon. So to recap:

I got married the last weekend in May….

We recessed from the chapel under a sword arch created by my husband's sword students and friends
We recessed from the chapel under a sword arch created by my husband’s sword students and friends. It was pretty much the best thing ever.

… and my new husband Greg and I left for our honeymoon shortly thereafter. We traveled first to the Veneto in Italy, a place that is rapidly becoming like a second home. I’ll have more to say on that part of the trip in a later blog post.

The Provinces of the Veneto
The provinces of the Veneto (Creative Commons Attribution-share Alike 3.0)

From there, we were going on to Prague in the Czech Republic, a city I’d been curious to see for years. But then, while attending a medieval tournament, Il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, near Verona, Italy, I heard something wonderful. A new-found German friend, Holger Heid, said that the pourpoint of Charles de Blois—the garment about which I have written so much and published a pattern—had gone on exhibit in Prague a few weeks earlier. The news of this windfall was stunning. I was giddy. I had yet to see it in person.

Greg, on the right, attempting to stab his good friend Christian in the neck, like you do. (Photo by Nicola Maccagnani)
At the Torneo, Greg, on the right, attempting to spear his good friend Christian in the neck, like you do. (Photo by Nicola Maccagnani)

The museum that houses the pourpoint, the Musée des Tissus in Lyon, France, is on the brink of closing due to budget shortfalls. There’s been a protracted attempt to keep it open, but as of now, there are no guarantees. I had made peace with likely never seeing this garment in person, as we had earmarked our travel budget for the year solely for this trip to Italy and the Czech Republic. France just wasn’t on the itinerary any time soon. I knew that when the museum closed, the garment would probably either find a home in a private collection or remain stored in some state-run repository. The likelihood of it going back on display elsewhere was chancy at best.

The pourpoint is indeed on loan to an exhibit in Prague this summer, on the topic of Emperor Charles IV, a beloved king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor from the 14th century. The city has many new exhibits devoted to Charles this year, because his reign began 700 years ago in 1316. It’s a cornucopia of medieval awesomeness. With anticipation verging on maniacal (my husband can attest), we found the Waldstein Riding School building where the Emperor Charles IV: 1316-2016 exhibit was being held, and went inside.

Seeing this garment in person for the first time was truly magical for me. I drank it in as a whole and then began to memorize details. A few years back I wrote an article, Cut to Pieces by a Determined Tailor. This discusses the pattern layout and the width of the pourpoint’s original fabric. I extrapolated this information from the fabric-conserving cut of the pieces. It was with this article in mind that I began to check off my assertions as compared against the proof of the original, which helps to fill holes that photos or diagrams inevitably leave open.

To my infinite sorrow, I was unable to take more than 2 very furtive no-flash photos before a docent caught me and admonished me to stop. They followed me like a criminal for the rest of my time inside the exhibit, but I suppose that’s a small price to pay for having the opportunity to see this garment in person, at long last.

Emperor Charles IV:1316–2016 catalog
Emperor Charles IV:1316–2016 catalog; I didn’t see one in English, alas.

I have compiled my observations in a new article. This exhibit allows you to walk 360 degrees around the garment so you can see all sides. Unfortunately, the exhibit did not allow photography; even no-flash photography. You can see the garment in Prague until September 25th. After that, it moves to Nuremberg, Germany.

Here’s the link to my observations after viewing the pourpoint in person: Pourpoint of Charles de Blois: In-Person Observations (Finally!)

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