Cover image for Brilliant Bodies: Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy By Timothy McCall

Brilliant Bodies

Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy

Timothy McCall

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$109.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09060-3

Available as an e-book

240 pages
9" × 10"
36 color/50 b&w illustrations
2022

Brilliant Bodies

Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy

Timothy McCall

“With this vivid account of fifteenth-century fashion, McCall has given us thrilling new ways to interpret the politics, gender posturing, and art of Renaissance Italy. Bringing new light to such well-known historical figures and events—and from such a surprising angle and with so much delicacy in the details of the prose—is what makes Brilliant Bodies a remarkable achievement.”

 

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Italian court culture of the fifteenth century was a golden age, gleaming with dazzling princes, splendid surfaces, and luminous images that separated the lords from the (literally) lackluster masses. In Brilliant Bodies, Timothy McCall describes and interprets the Renaissance glitterati—gorgeously dressed and adorned men—to reveal how charismatic bodies, in the palazzo and the piazza, seduced audiences and materialized power.

Fifteenth-century Italian courts put men on display. Here, men were peacocks, attracting attention with scintillating brocades, shining armor, sparkling jewels, and glistening swords, spurs, and sequins. McCall’s investigation of these spectacular masculinities challenges widely held assumptions about appropriate male display and adornment. Interpreting surviving objects, visual representations in a wide range of media, and a diverse array of primary textual sources, McCall argues that Renaissance masculine dress was a political phenomenon that fashioned power and patriarchal authority. Brilliant Bodies describes and recontextualizes the technical construction and cultural meanings of attire, casts a critical eye toward the complex and entangled relations between bodies and clothing, and explores the negotiations among makers, wearers, and materials.

This groundbreaking study of masculinity makes an important intervention in the history of male ornamentation and fashion by examining a period when the public display of splendid men not only supported but also constituted authority. It will appeal to specialists in art history and fashion history as well as scholars working at the intersections of gender and politics in quattrocento Italy.

“With this vivid account of fifteenth-century fashion, McCall has given us thrilling new ways to interpret the politics, gender posturing, and art of Renaissance Italy. Bringing new light to such well-known historical figures and events—and from such a surprising angle and with so much delicacy in the details of the prose—is what makes Brilliant Bodies a remarkable achievement.”
“Readers who worry that McCall’s book might be an academic affair directed toward art historians, costume scholars, archivists, and other specialists need not fear: the chapters are beautifully illustrated, the writing is accessible, the argument is clearly developed with a critical eye toward current debates on gender, identity, and the symbolic valorization of whiteness, or ‘brilliance,’ in the courts of early Renaissance Europe, where aristocratic men and women regularly bleached their hair blond, powdered their hands and faces white, and embellished their clothing with shimmering metallic threads and gems that made their bodies glow like the sun.”
“Readers who worry that McCall’s book might be an academic affair directed toward art historians, costume scholars, archivists, and other specialists need not fear: the chapters are beautifully illustrated, the writing is accessible, the argument is clearly developed with a critical eye toward current debates on gender, identity, and the symbolic valorization of whiteness.”

Timothy McCall is Associate Professor of Art History at Villanova University. He is a coeditor of Visual Cultures of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe and the forthcoming six-volume series A Cultural History of Luxury.

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgements

Introduction: Brilliant Bodies and Fashionable Men at Court

1. Riddled with Gilt: Lords in Shining Armor and Shimmering Brocades

2. “Ornado d’Oro e Giemme”: Brilliant Male Bodies Adorned

3. The Contours of Renaissance Fashion

4. Fair Princes: Blanched Beauty, Nobility, and Power

Epilogue: Black is the New Gold

Glossary

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Download a PDF sample chapter here: Introduction