Hoho Birds and Dancing Jesters: Italian Dress Epitomizes the Late Baroque/Rococo Style, c. 1725-1740

All images are courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Acc. #: 1993.17a, b
This lively Italian Late Baroque embroidered linen dress (c. 1725-1740) epitomizes the characteristics of the period: exaggerated, large scale motifs and easily accessible details. Add to this a sense of movement, depth, high color, and they all combine to create drama, exuberance & grandeur! The dress suggests a theater or an opera narrative. Beginning in Rome around 1600, by the early 18th century, the style was pervasive in the Western world.  By the time this garment was complete a transition to the Rococo was well underway. Whether we view it as a form of music, art, architecture, theatre or fashion this dress embodies the �poque.

Look closely at the scale of the figures along the lower portion of the dress. Full of flourish, the dancing jesters, holding flowers rather than scepters, would have been recognized in most parts of the early 18th century world by the elite (who were wealthy enough to have such extensive ornament decorate their garments.) The figures are intertwined with fantastical phoenix-like creatures (known as Hoho birds, Asian symbols of good fortune), large-scale, brightly-hued flowers, references to Chinoiserie and elaborate foreign, dream-like landscapes. Note the attention to detail of the jester's clothing: vibrant tunics with pointed hems and sleeves, traditional cap with bells. 

As mentioned above, the figures are entwined with the Hoho birds. Some of the best examples of these carved creatures are at the National Trust's Claydon House (1751-1771). They carved of wood by Luke Lightfoot, responsible for most of the astounding Rococo carving throughout.

For an information and image rich piece on Claydon House and its carvings, see Carolyne Roehm:

For more details on the linen dress, see:
Metropolitan Museum, Acc. #: 1993.17a, b @Metropolitan Museum of Art

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