On July 3, 2020, an exhibition dedicated to a very particular aspect of the Middle Ages, fashion, opened in the city at the foot of Mount Grappa. Until March 28, 2021, “Plots of history. Clothes and trends in the Middle Ages in Bassano del Grappa” can be visited at the civic tower of Bassano.
A Middle Ages to discover
Dark period? The idea of the Middle Ages as a dark and culturally poor period is now cleared by contemporary historians. It’s important to underline its cultural impulses and its economic development in terms similar to those we know today. The subject of fashion and the creation of clothes is an example, and that’s exactly what the exhibition “Plots of history. Clothes and trends in the Middle Ages in Bassano del Grappa” curated by Cristina Mondin is based on.
Although the concept of fashion as we understand it today is born more properly with the development of industrial society, we can certainly recognize in 1200 some changes in the use of colors, fabrics and shapes according to taste, but also the consolidation of a social status.
Clothes and trends of Frederick II
A historical figure capable of embodying all this is Frederick II of Swabia, one of the pivotal men of the Middle Ages. The emperor played an important role in the politics of the Veneto region, so much so that it’s possible that he had been in Bassano del Grappa in the mid-thirteenth century. It is somehow witnessed (even if only symbolically) by a fresco in Palazzo Finco, which represents a scene of courteous life.
A character, to whom Frederick II corresponds, gives a rose to a woman, presumably his wife Isabella of England. It is certain that the emperor had political and friendly relations with Ezzelino III da Romano, one of the most important and among the first lords of Bassano, known for his military ferocity but also (more recently) for his interest in art and beauty. This is the atmosphere that the exhibition wants to represent.
Trends, fabrics and textures
Six clothes, both male and female, are exhibited. These are artifacts created specifically for this exhibition, therefore with today’s materials and techniques. However the models have been carefully studied and inferred through iconographic evidence of the Bassano area and its surroundings dated between 1200 and 1500. An example is the fresco of Palazzo Finco mentioned above, rediscovered for some years but of great historical and artistic interest. Two of the clothes on display are taken from it: that of the court dignitary and the musician.
This six models are carefully narrated within the historical and economic context of the Bassano of the time, however also explaining the evolution of fashion over the centuries. In addition to the clothes, there is also a depth analysis of the materials most used at the time, well known even today: wool, cotton, hemp, linen and silk. Thanks to a specially designed station, it is possible to discover the differences in the realization of the fabrics but also to test the material differences by hand.
The civic tower of Bassano
The exhibition fits nicely into the context of the town’s civic tower. A symbolic monument of Bassano, presumably built in 1200, which has brick facades inside that are well linked to the exhibition dedicated to medieval fashion. The exhibition runs through the eight levels of the tower and up to the panoramic terrace. From the top of its 43 meters in height it is possible to admire a 360-degrees panorama that embraces not only the city of Bassano but also its surroundings, following the course of the Brenta river up to the Berici hills, the Asolani hills on the opposite side as well as the majestic slopes of Mount Grappa that extend to the north.