Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Maria Serra Pallavicino, 1606

Just try to imagine how much this dress would have cost, and how much labor must have gone into making this in a pre-industrial world. Sadly I can't find a really big copy of this image, because Rubens was a great painter of fabric and the details are probably exquisite.


G. Verloren said...

"Just try to imagine how much this dress would have cost, and how much labor must have gone into making this in a pre-industrial world."

That's actually not that hard for me to imagine. What I really struggle to grasp is how a person could justify to themselves such disgusting excess, and not die of shame and revulsion at even considering it, much less actually indulging in it.

With that level of ostentatious wealth display, you might as well just make your clothes out of pure gold, and wash them with the blood, sweat, and tears of the impoverished masses, while sitting upon a diamond encrusted throne built out of the bones of the miners who toiled to unearth the stones and metal.

Shadow said...
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Shadow said...

What the hell is that thing around her neck? Somebody do something before it kills her. I'd like to know its provenance.

G. Verloren said...


We're too late. That's a ring of fungal mycelium - it's the early stages of an infestation. Soon her head will be enveloped and transform into a stem and cap, which will ultimately open to release spores, infecting the entire royal court.

Shadow said...

I figured it had to be something like that. That or she was beheaded and this contraption was needed to put her head back on her shoulders.

But seriously . . .

You look at dress and costume throughout the centuries and at what passed for cool and attractive and, dare I say, functional, and it makes you realize just how unlike you and your ancestors are.

G. Verloren said...

To be fair, my ancestors were probably serfs and peasants.

The trick is to compare rich idiots to rich idiots. Then, you see that people don't really change that much.

John actually had a post a little while ago that seems to demonstrate my argument.

It's absolutely not about being "cool" or "attractive", and heaven forbid functionality ever enter the equation. It's quite literally, entirely, wholly, and utterly about flaunting your wealth, and mocking those with less than you.

It is the equivalent of putting gold on your bread, or in your booze. Why would you do that? Gold doesn't taste good. You can't digest it, it just ends up in the toilet. It's an utterly crass and stupid thing to do.

And yet, people do it anyway. Why? Because it's their way of saying "This proves how rich I am! If you don't do this too, you must not be as rich as I am! And that then means I'm better than you! Sad!"

Susi said...

Making it gave many people employment and helped redistribute the wealth. Unfortunately some of the aristocracy went into debt and then didn’t pay their suppliers.

Susi said...
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G. Verloren said...


Trickle down economics, huh? Give me a break.

Even if we wanted to pretend that this wasn't about staggering opulence and classism, and was actually -secretly- done out of beneificence to create jobs, how does it change the fact that this is disgustingly wasteful, on levels that are difficult for the human mind to comprehend?

If some noble family wanted to spend a small fortune to create jobs for people, how about instead of spending it on a single dress, they spend it on improving the infrastructure of their country to the benefit of the poorest residents?

No, this sort of thing has always been about "prestige". The huddled masses can go hungry in the cold mud and no one cares, so long as the nobility gets to wear the most expensive silks, gold, jewels, et cetera. After all, the artistrocracy IS the country!

Oh, and just to throw a spanner in the works of your argument, probably most of the money spent on these sorts of outfits would have gone entirely into procuring and transporting the necessary materials from foreign lands - not paying local artisans for their labor.

Silk in particular sucked a lot of money out of Europe and put it in the hands of Arabic and Indian traders, and of course Chinese silkworkers. Meanwhile, the dressmakers back home, although well paid compared to other dressmakers, still only saw a small percentage of the total cost in payment for their services.