Saturday 6 July 2013

Early Accounting For Style

I have many young female relatives who love dressing up and taking pictures of themselves looking the bee's knees - as we were wont to imagine ourselves but with only the aid of some klutz with a Box Brownie who always seemed to click while we scowled into the sunlight - that is if they managed to get our heads in at all! But this is in no way new-fangled behaviour. A 16th century style-obsessed accountant from Augsburg in Germany commissioned water-colour paintings of himself wearing the latest fashion from the age of 23 until he was 63.

Matthaeus Schwarz's interest in fashion (and himself) dated from his early youth and resulted in a unique pictorial record. Schwarz was the head accountant for the Fugger family, one of the most important and wealthy German merchant and banking families at the time. He started to record his appearance in 1520, initially commissioning 36 images to retrospectively cover his appearance from childhood up until the age of 23. Over four decades he commissioned a total of 137 original watercolour images of his outfits, painted by three principal artists.

He then had the pages bound, creating what became known as the Trachtenbuch des Matthaus Schwarz - Schwarz Book of Clothes. This book is in a small museum in Braunschweig, Germany. To read more about Matthaeus Schwarz and his amazing multicolour clothes, click here.

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