Cranach Gowns: A Paper Doll of German Rennisance Dress (Plus Resources)

Link to Cranach Gowns, a paper doll of a 15th century Saxony dress in Germany with two gowns, two hats, one pair of shoes in black and white or in full color for printingHappy Friday! Here’s a printable paper doll. 🙂

I first stumbled across Cranach dress or gowns in this rather gruesome painting of Judith with the Head of Holofernes months ago and her gown was fascinating. I didn’t know much about it, except that it was painted by Lucas Cranach. As it turned out, I discovered as I did more research, that the artist- Lucas Cranach the Elder- painted countless versions of this gown on countless both real and mythological figures.  Coming out of the Saxony area of Germany, Lucas Cranach was hired by Fredrick the Wise who to be the court painter of his court in 1505 and Cranach stayed there for the rest of his life. He was extremely prolific and his art is distinctly romantic and stylized. Even his portraits all rather do look the same after a while, I have to confess.

Around 1546, Cranach illustrated a manuscript for the Court at Saxony. This collection of portraits of Saxon princes and family known as Das Sächsische Stammbuch – Mscr.Dresd.R.3 is fascinating. I was immediately struck by the illustrations of the Saxon princesses (image 220, f. 89) and I knew I wanted to draw these dresses.

Cranach Gowns, a paper doll of a 15th century Saxony dress in Germany with two gowns, two hats, one pair of shoes in black and white for printing. Free from paperthinpersonas.com {Download a PDF of this paper doll to Color} {View a 150 dpi PNG of this Paper Doll to Color}{More Paper Dolls in the Bodacious & Buxom Series}
However, there is a debate as to whether or not Cranach’s gowns actually existed in the real world. Here’s my view: We don’t have an extant one, but then we don’t have very many extant garments from this era anyway. Should we find one the debate would be settled, but until then we have to work with the primary sources we have.  The value of fabric and the expense of clothing was so great the people usually chose to be painted to garments they actually owned.

Plus, I tend to approach history with the belief that in the absence of proof to the contrary, we should assume that people of the era were not trying to mislead people of the future. Why commission a family history with crests and portraits of your family, if you are not going to accurately render the people in the images? Das Sächsische Stammbuch – Mscr.Dresd.R.3 is a collection of portraits of Saxon nobles. Why put the princesses in imaginary gowns?

The first question I struggled to answer was if the nets of pearls so often seen the women’s hair in these portraits were actually nets of pearls, or rather some sort of cap. This article on these caps lead me to conclude it was a cap, rather than part of the hair. The paper doll’s shoes are fairly standard 15th century shoes with squared toes. Her hats are based on portraits of the era.

I picked out colors based on the main colors I saw in the portraiture which were red and black. I really wanted to do blue as well, like the illustrations of the Saxon princesses and so I did a blue gown as well. I did wonder, however, about the blue. Color is often symbolic in manuscript illustration and I wondered if perhaps blue was used to denote virginity (the Madonna was associated with blue) rather than to render the actual color of the gowns. Never the less, I thought they looked pretty and that was enough for me. I made the paper doll a redhead, because I have a thing for redheads and so did, it seems, Cranach.

ranach Gowns, a paper doll of a 15th century Saxony dress in Germany with two gowns, two hats, one pair of shoes in color for printing {Download a PDF of this paper doll in Full Color} {View a 150 dpi PNG of this Paper Doll in Full Color} {More Paper Dolls in the Bodacious & Buxom Series}
In my research, I am indebted to The German Renaissance of Genoveva , a blog devoted to recreating German Renaissance dress for reenactment and The Court Gowns of Saxony and article by Holly Stockley which was accessed via the Wayback Machine and The German Renaissance of Genoveva website.

Normally, this is where I would put my sources. The truth is that I was flummoxed in finding any really good secondary academic works on German Renaissance dress in English. I did use the Met’s collection of Cranach paintings, the Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Lucas Cranach, this delightful bookplate from the National Gallery (USA), the National Gallery (UK) portrait of a noble woman, and this portrait of Princess Maria of Saxony.

The most useful document was Das Sächsische Stammbuch – Mscr.Dresd.R.3 and I owe a debt to the library that digitized it. It it through this digital work that people like me can see the great artifacts of Europe and study them. I am well aware of the risks and time such projects take, so I am grateful when libraries and museums undertake them.

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4 Responses to Cranach Gowns: A Paper Doll of German Rennisance Dress (Plus Resources)

  1. Yersinia says:

    Oh wow! She’s stunning!
    Cranach’s Judiths and Salomes and portraits are among my very favourite paintings of all times.
    And I absolutely love this style of dress!

    You did an amazing job with them!

  2. melodyscraps says:

    Beautiful work!

  3. Cisco says:

    I like that you include history through your paper dolls. I myself have a deep interest in historical fashion. I also have many books on fashion history. Please keep up the historical aspect in your Paper Dolls. I consider it a colorful, fun and creative type of history lesson. I check your website everyday and I thank you for its creation. Cisco

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