As a woman of the Italian Peninsula during the quattrocento, whether one was young or old, rich or poor, a woman of leisure or a female member of the workforce, there existed a variety of suitable headgear and hairstyles. 

Turban styles (above and below) must have provided a practical solution for working women or busy mothers who did not wish to have their daily activities impeded by long, loose hair.  

For the middle-classes, or those fortunate enough to have servants or ladies maids to help with hair styling, hair could be decorously bound in braids, buns or rolls (below).

Women from patrician backgrounds however, took styling and binding to new levels of sophistication by adding garlands and jewels to increasingly elaborate hairstyles. 

The veil however, remained a popular choice for young and old, rich and poor alike, and served as a reminder to the casual observer that the wearer wished to be perceived as a woman of virtue. Accordingly, it could be worn alone or in conjunction with other headgear. 

Beyond the veil was the mantle, the preserve of matrons and symbol of dignity and respectability.

References: Paola Tinagli, Paola Tinagli Baxter, Paulo Tinagli, Mary Rogers, Women in Italian Renaissance Art: Gender, Representation and Identity, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. 

Carole Collier Frick, Dressing Renaissance Florence, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Ulinka Rublak, Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 

Images: Masaccio, Detail of a Female Recipient of Charity from The Distribution of Alms and the Death of Ananias, 1426-27, fresco, Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.

Gentile da Fabriano, Detail of Two Women with Veils Twisted into Turban-like Headgear from Adoration of the Magi, 1423, tempera on wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.

Francesco del Cossa, Detail from Allegory of March: Triumph of Minerva, 1476-84, fresco, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara. Web Gallery of Art.

Angelo da Siena, Portrait of a Woman, 15th Century, Tempera on panel, Museo Correr, Venice. Web Gallery of Art.

Piero del Pollaiuolo, Portrait of a Young Lady, 1465, oil on poplar, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Web Gallery of Art. 

Piero di Cosimo, Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci, c. 1480, oil on panel, Musée Condé, Chantilly. Web Gallery of Art.

Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Woman (possibly Simonetta Vespucci), 1480-85, tempera on wood, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. Web Gallery of Art. 

Anonymous (Italian, Florentine), Portrait of a Lady in Red, c.1460 – 1470, oil and tempera on wood, The National Gallery London. The National Gallery © 2019.

Fra Filippo Lippi, Portrait of a Woman, 1440-42, tempera on wood, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Web Gallery of Art. 

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of the Donor Francesca Pitti-Tornabuoni, 1486-90, fresco, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. 

Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson

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