I want to start a new ongoing theme, looking at the way fashion designers are influenced and/or incorporate artworks or styles of art into their collections, as well as specific historical periods. This first instalment will feature the Fall 2013 collection by Dolce & Gabbana and to this day it remains one of my favourite fashion collections ever.
The period of the Byzantine art occurred in Eastern Roman Empire, existing from c. 330 CE until its conquering by the Turks in c. 1453. Byzantium was a Christian empire, with its capital being Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). The city was named after the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine. The style is usually considered to be Early Christian art, but was derived from Greek and Egyptian art forms, combining both classical Western and Eastern art forms. Constantinople was a beautiful city during its glory days, with mosaics, marble and gold and silver buildings. Clothing was also ornately adorned, encrusted with jewels. The majesty of the robes worn by the Emperor was a reflection of the empire’s dedication to religion—the Emperor was a physical, earthly manifestation of God and thus, his robes needed to be heavily adorned in order to reflect his status.
This style of art is characterised by religious iconography and imagery—in particular, the translation of church theology into art. Taking the form of both mosaics and paintings, the style employed rich colours and figures that appeared to be flat. These figures are also characterised by their large eyes and their bodies appear to be floating in the foreground; the background is often golden coloured. The creation of the figures in this style is meant to be unrealistic as opposed to the Classical art of the ancient Greeks—these figures were intended to represent spiritual beings not composed of flesh. Another characteristic of the style is the Empire’s love of splendour, hence the use of jewels and gold.
Despite the fall of Constantinople in 1453, artists of the Greek islands, in the Balkans and in Russia continued to create work in Byzantine style, thus illustrating the perpetual relevance of the artistic style into future generations.
Mosaics feature heavily in the collection, as well as ornately designed crowns and earrings, reminiscent of Christian iconography and Medieval kings. The colour palette used is rich with jewel tones and gold shades, reflecting the regal feeling of the overall collection. The models themselves appeared to be modern reincarnations of Emperors and Empresses of the golden age of the Byzantium Empire, with every element of their appearance harking back to what their leaders would have been adorned with.
The designers (Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gaibbana) stated the collection drew inspiration from Sicily, as well as the Venetian and Byzantine mosaics of the twelfth-century cathedral in the city of Monreale. These mosaics are painstakingly composed to form the final image, as this level of detail is observable in the workmanship of the pieces featured in this collection, with mosaic beading swathing crystal gems. Silhouettes ranged from boxy shifts to cinched waist dresses like the 1950s.
Accessories completed the look, with cross earrings and bejewelled crowns, creating an image of a saint and princess all-in-one. Shoes were intricately decorated with carved floral patterns (reminiscent of Baroque styles) and entwined with papal purple and cardinal red velvet. The end of the show saw a cluster of red laced and jewel encrusted evening gowns, relating back to the rich scarlet shade donned by Catholic cardinals of the church.
I hope this little article was of interest to you and perhaps may inspire you in some facet of your life—art and fashion are my most interesting subjects so sharing my thoughts about different art styles and designers always fascinate me.
Until next time! x