Fashion Details in Pre-Raphaelite Art

The Pre-Raphaelites and the artists they inspired are known for their attention to detail.  While their  attention to nature is perhaps a more widely known aspect of Pre-Raphaelite art, their meticulous representation of clothing does not escape my notice.   Of course, there are many examples to choose from since Pre-Raphaelite art is rich with drapery and medieval-inspired costumes.   They were masters at painting lush fabrics and textures that you can easily imagine the feel of when viewing the painting.   I could fill this post with a large selection of images, but in the interest of length and time I will share a few of my favorite examples:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a founding member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, frequently used jewelry and props in his works (See Hair Adornment in Rossetti Paintings and Rossetti and his Baubles).  In several paintings, he seems to have used the same gauzy scarf:

The Bower Meadow

The Bower Meadow

bower2

The Bower Meadow detail

The Blessed Damozel

The Blessed Damozel

The Blessed Damozel detail

The Blessed Damozel detail

La Ghirlandata

La Ghirlandata

La Ghirlandata detail

La Ghirlandata detail

Veronica Veronese

Veronica Veronese

Veronica Veronese detail

Veronica Veronese detail

One of my favorite fashion details depicted in art is Hesperus by Sir Joseph Noel Paton.  While not a member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Paton is noted for painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style and Hesperus is a good example of this.  I particularly love the embroidery on the sleeves.  (Oh, the sleeves!  What lovely sleeves!)

 

Hesperus

Hesperus detail

Another example of a detail that always impresses me is how realistically Charles Edward Halle  represents black lace in his painting Luna.  The lace on the cuff appears so thin and delicate.

Luna

Luna

Luna detail

Luna detail

Speaking of Pre-Raphaelites and fashion, designer Diane von Furstenburg has mentioned the Pre-Raphs as an inspiration for her latest collection.  “I’ve gone back to antiquity; the Ancient Greeks, the Land of the Pharoahs,” announced Diane von Furstenberg, backstage before her show. “It’s all about draping, Pre-Raphaelite colours, the paintings of Alma-Tadema.” (via The Telegraph)  Also, this brief piece at Style.com draws a direct relation from the Millais painting of Ophelia to our modern Boho-chic.  And who can ignore the Pre-Raphaelite influence upon “hippie” fashion?  The Beautiful Necessity (one of my favorite blogs) has a delightful and thoughtful post entitled Pre-Raphaelites and Hippie Beads.

In essence, I think it’s safe to say that while the artists that formed the Brotherhood desired to reform the art world, they inadvertently affected the fashion world as well.  And I, for one, am grateful.


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2 thoughts on “Fashion Details in Pre-Raphaelite Art

  1. I find it very interesting to think about how the Pre-Raphs are inspiring modern dressing. I hope to see more rich colors and draping on the catwalks. It surprises me not at all that Diane von Furstenberg would be inspired by them, since she’s known for her flowy, floral designs, and her interest in how fabric moves on the body.

    Also thanks for showing a couple of paintings there, that I hadn’t ever seen, Hesperus and Luna. Luna particularly, what a lovely piece.

    Seven years ago, there was an exhibit at the National Gallery in London called Fabric of Vision (I believe) and it was all about the depiction of fabric and drapery in art. I’m always amazed at how artists can manage to depict the sheen of a satin skirt or the nap of a velvet dress. One of my favorite painters of fabric is Ingres, and Paul Delaroche’s painting of the Execution of Lady Jane Grey has one of the most beautiful depictions of white satin ever. It serves the subject well, since the skirt is worn by the tragic young queen, and the beauty of it lends even more pathos to the heartbreaking scene.

    Anyway, just thought I’d put my two cents in. Thanks for the great article!

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