Dressing the part
Dressing the part : textiles as propaganda in the Middle Ages
Turnhout : Brepols, 2014, 213 p.
During the Middle Ages, textiles played a particularly prominent role in the communication of wealth and authority by mediating the body politic and defining spaces of political, religious, and social power. The intrinsic material value of textiles—which could be woven out of silk, enriched with silver and gold threads, and garnished with precious stones—complemented an elaborate visual language that conveyed ideological messages. From the ornamented sphere of ecclesiastical dress and the celebrations of feast days to an aristocrat’s various rites of passage (such as birth, marriage, coronation, and death), textiles functioned as propaganda. Rulers across the European, Byzantine and Islamic worlds expressed their dynastic claims, military prowess, political aspirations and accomplishments by commissioning, displaying, wearing, and offering textiles.
Because textiles are portable, wearable and displayable their performative qualities result in multivalent meanings that medieval patrons exploited. In essence, the meaning of textiles can never truly be fixed. Textiles inherently represent a confluence of messages because they operate within multiple systems of signs—costume, liturgical display, ceremonies of state, funerary ritual, memorial display and personal or corporate identity to name a few. While contemporary historians might label this multivalency as Lacanian, in fact, perhaps more than any other art form, textiles amplify and even reveal the medieval appreciation for the inherent flexibility of signs.
This volume explores the ways in which textiles were used or invoked in the construction and display of power. The essays include material culture studies that explore textile display, archival investigations that reveal patterns of donation, technical studies concerning design and production processes, as well as art historical studies concerning the representation of textiles in other media. All together, these essays offer insight into how textiles were interwoven with notions of identity, status, and power during the Middle Ages.
Axe de recherches :
- Axe 1 : Cultures visuelles et matérielles