Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Temperance Bodice Ornament, 1610-20

Dress Ornament
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Dress or bodice ornaments were sewn onto garments for decorative effect. These small decorations were often made of the finest precious metals and stones.  Usually, they were made in matching sets of differing sizes so that they could be worn in rows across sleeves, the bodice, or a jacket.  They were worn by both men and women.
Here, we see an openwork gold ornament which was made in Germany between 1610 and 1620.  It features a cast female figure at the center, holding two goblets, presumably of water, and, therefore, identified as “Temperance” whose attribute was twin goblets.  She, therefore, may have been part of a large set of ornaments depicting the cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance).  These were usually paired with the theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity).
The whole piece is enameled in white, blue, green and black.

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