New Publication: ‘Brilliant Bodies: Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy’ by Timothy McCall

From PSU Press:

‘Italian court culture of the fifteenth century was a golden age, gleaming with dazzling princes, splendid surfaces, and luminous images that separated the lords from the (literally) lackluster masses. In Brilliant Bodies, Timothy McCall describes and interprets the Renaissance glitterati—gorgeously dressed and adorned men—to reveal how charismatic bodies, in the palazzo and the piazza, seduced audiences and materialized power.

Fifteenth-century Italian courts put men on display. Here, men were peacocks, attracting attention with scintillating brocades, shining armor, sparkling jewels, and glistening swords, spurs, and sequins. McCall’s investigation of these spectacular masculinities challenges widely held assumptions about appropriate male display and adornment. Interpreting surviving objects, visual representations in a wide range of media, and a diverse array of primary textual sources, McCall argues that Renaissance masculine dress was a political phenomenon that fashioned power and patriarchal authority. Brilliant Bodies describes and recontextualizes the technical construction and cultural meanings of attire, casts a critical eye toward the complex and entangled relations between bodies and clothing, and explores the negotiations among makers, wearers, and materials.

This groundbreaking study of masculinity makes an important intervention in the history of male ornamentation and fashion by examining a period when the public display of splendid men not only supported but also constituted authority. It will appeal to specialists in art history and fashion history as well as scholars working at the intersections of gender and politics in quattrocento Italy.’

Timothy McCall is Associate Professor of Art History at Villanova University. He is a coeditor of Visual Cultures of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe and the forthcoming six-volume series A Cultural History of Luxury.

Table of Contents:

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Brilliant Bodies and Fashionable Men at Court
  • 1. Riddled with Gilt: Lords in Shining Armor and Shimmering Brocades
  • 2. “Ornado d’Oro e Giemme”: Brilliant Male Bodies Adorned
  • 3. The Contours of Renaissance Fashion
  • 4. Fair Princes: Blanched Beauty, Nobility, and Power
  • Epilogue: Black is the New Gold
  • Glossary
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

To purchase, please visit PSU Press.


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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