Between the Medieval and The Modern

August 8, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 6 – Book Recommendation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frau Magda @ 10:26 pm
Tags: , ,

Since I’m a bit behind on my CoBloWriMo blogging, I’m going to cheat just a little bit on this entry and recommend a book that I have already written about here. (Go read that post, then come back here and read the rest of this one.)

The book is The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes. I read it back in 2010, but I still think about it often, because it keeps having relevance to me when I research Landsknecht clothing and look at medieval and renaissance art.
According to Michel Pastoureau’s The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes, “In Germanic customary law of the early Middle Ages…such attire is imposed on or reserved for bastards, serfs, and the condemned.” Sometimes the hangman or executioner was required to wear an entirely striped set of clothes. In Biblical paintings, sometimes striped clothes are used to indicate the traitor in the Scriptures (Cain, Delilah, Judas, etc.). Sumptuary laws of the time required striped clothing for certain classes of reprobates and outcasts: prostitutes, jugglers, clowns, lepers, cripples, heretics, Jews and other non-Christians.

So now when I look at striped clothing in 16th century art, I’m now asking myself, how am I supposed to interpret this person? Are they a Lutheran (a heretic)? Are they an executioner? Are they someone who wants others to see them as someone outside of the social order?

1504_MartyrdomOfStCatherine

When I look at images of Cranach’s martyrdom of Saint Catherine I now see the significance of her executioner not only being a Landsknecht, but wearing stripes.

And when I was at The Cloisters and saw the Unicorn Tapestries for the first time, I was squeeing to myself when I saw which members of the hunting party were wearing stripes. It’s important! Having read this book, I’m now better able to understand the subliminal message that these artists are including in their work via their choice to put these men in stripes.

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