Matthäus Schwarz, Renaisance Sartorialist

Manolo says, thanks to the interesting article about the birth of European “fashion” at the History Today, the Manolo has been introduced to the chief accountant to the family Fugger, Matthäus Schwarz, who was apparently the sort of Renaissance Sartorialist.

Matthäus Schwarz by Hans Maler zu Schwaz

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers / And they've been known to pick a song or two

In July 1526 Matthäus Schwarz, a 29-year-old chief accountant for the mighty Fugger family of merchants from Augsburg, commissioned a naked image of himself as fashionably slim and precisely noted his waist measurements. He worried about gaining weight, which to him signalled ageing and diminished attractiveness. Over the course of his life, from his twenties to his old age, Schwarz commissioned 135 watercolour paintings showing his dressed self, which he eventually compiled into a remarkable album, the Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes), which is housed today in a small museum in Brunswick. From the many fascinating details the album reveals we know that, while he was courting women, Schwarz carried heart-shaped leather bags in green, the colour of hope.

This mania for the clothing reaches its peak at the Imperial Diet in Augsberg.

Matthäus Schwarz had three expensive outfits tailored for himself to please Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria, whom he met twice during the Imperial Diet of Augsburg of 1530, presided over by the archduke and his brother, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. [...] Schwarz, who had slimmed in advance and had grown a beard like Ferdinand himself, used fashion to produce an image of himself which made the archduke like and trust him. In 1541 Schwarz himself received a particularly special reward from the emperor, whom he had also had a chance to impress in person; he was ennobled.

Ayyy! Matthäus Schwarz dieted for the Diet!

But, thanks to the age and the marriage, things did not end well for our foppish friend…


Matthäus Schwarz In Fur Coat From Behind

Straight Up Pimpin'

Schwarz was not an aristocrat, but a wine merchant’s son. [...] In April 1538, at the age of 41, Schwarz married Barbara Mangolt, the not very exciting and not very young daughter of a local manager in the Fugger firm. In the picture of himself marking the occasion Schwarz is shown in his home from behind wearing a dark coat trimmed with green half-silken taffeta. The text accompanying the image reads simply: ‘20 February 1538 when I took a wife this coat … was made’. After this he got fat, had a stroke and afterwards looked his age.

It happens to the best…

Naturally, it would be so much better to be the fop in the era of the fur pelisses, the colored stocking, and the silk doublets, than in our present period of dark suits, sensible shoes, and the power ties.

But, then, in the opinion of the Manolo, the true peak of the men’s clothing was not reached in the Renaissance, but later, in the mid-to-late 18th century, after the frippery justaucorps of the rococo and baroque had given way to the knee-breaches, the embroidered waistcoats, and the richly-colored, hip-length frock coats of the late Enlightenment.

P.S. From the Arts and the Letters Daily.

One Response to “Matthäus Schwarz, Renaisance Sartorialist”

  1. Lilli January 5, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I also agree that men’s fashion peaked in the baroque and rococo!