Monday, December 2, 2019

The 15th Century "Wrap" Hat

Detail of the Weyden Triptych
Many years ago when I first started the SCA, I learned about the above painting of Mary Magdalene.  Like many others, I fell in love with her kirtle (note: Mary Magdalene is almost always shown in the latest fashions of the day).  However, very early on, I was told the hat was considered allegorical and probably not what was really worn. 

A bit later in my SCA career, I found a lot of the wrap style hat from the 15th C and did a post on it in the livejournal years.  I had long since forgotten about any controversy over it because it's not my normal geographic area or time period (a couple decades too early for me!).  However, thanks to a post on reddit, a lady asked about the hat and it's a good time to write up the research for it.

Detail from van der Weyden's "The Presentation in the Temple"
This was one of the first other examples I saw, thanks to Hope Greenberg's page on 15th C dress.  It's clearly an example of the wrap hat however, it's also clearly the same model.   Same hair color, same nose, and now, the same artist is painting the same hat.  While it helps slightly to say the hat probably existed, it also means that it's only one person wearing it - which doesn't help.  There is also a sketch of the Magdalene that Weyden did.   Again, the model existed and probably loved her wrap hat but that doesn't mean that it was a fashion statement for everyone.

Detail from the Starck Triptych (photo taken by me at the NGA)
Here we have Saint Veronica with...the wrap hat!   Now could it be the same model?  Probably not.  This Triptych was painted around about the 1480's and Weyden's are from 1452 and 1455, respectively.  Also, this Triptych is from Nuremberg in Germany and Weyden was Flemish.  He died in the 1464, so for the wrap hat to appear about 20 years later over 300 miles away is a little weird.  It could be that someone was just a fan of Weyden's work and copied it but that is unlikely given additional evidence for the wrap hat.

A Sibyl, 1470s
The sketch above is currently housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  It's said to be from the 1470s and also from Nuremberg.  Her wrap hat is a bit different but still pretty clearly fabric wrapped around the head to form a brim.   

Right Wing of the Deposition Triptych by Van der Goes
The above detail from a painting by Hugo Van der Goes shows a lady in the upper center with a black veil over the back of a wrap hat.  Not only is this clearly a very different model, this is from the 1480s and back in the Flemish territories.   Now, we have three different painters all showing the hat in the second half of the 15th C with different models wearing it.

Circumcision of Christ (detail from the Twelve Apostle Altarpiece) Friedrich Herlin - circa 1466
And we are back to Germany with another artist and the Virgin Mary this time wearing the wrap hat.  With four different artists showing it, it's most likely that the wrap hat was very much a fashion during the second half of the 15th Century.   

1480s (?) Lamentation detail, painted by tot Sint Jans
Yes, it looks like she has an air filter wrapped around her head or layered on too many coffee filters.   However, this is yet another example of the wrap hat - this time back in the Flemish territory.   

I saw there are many more up on pinterest but these are the few where I could verify to some degree the source and previously knew about.   The fun thing about the wrap hat is that it's very simple to make - it looks to be nothing more than a very long roll of 5" wide linen.  That's about what I end up having to cut off the edge of the fabric when I do skirts!   So, grab some scrap fabric, sew up one edge, and wrap it around your head snuggly.  It's period correct!