A Young Man’s Progress is art work by London photographer Maisie Broadhead and fashion designer Isabella Newell in collaboration with Cambridge cultural historian Ulinka Rublack. This work responds to images of a Renaissance man’s fashion styles recorded by Matthäus Schwarz (1497-1574), head accountant of a merchant firm in Augsburg, who put together 137 images of himself in the First Book of Fashion.
This unique series of paintings form a portrait of a life through Schwarz’s choice of clothes and self-representation. Schwarz not only had an uncommon awareness of clothing, colours and textures but also a strong ambition to communicate his ideas surrounding them. It is these elements that fascinate and form the impetus for this collaboration. What did it mean for a Renaissance man to express his emotions, values and ambitions through the way he looked, and what does this fascination with looking the part imply for young men in our contemporary world?
The garments are modern interpretations of Schwarz’s original dress; beautifully made and finished, they similarly concerned with style and details. Contemporary fashion is brought into a dialogue with the emergence of Renaissance man not through the portrayal of an individual face, but individually assembled things.
This is a pioneering collaboration between a historian, artist, artisan and fashion-designer to explore an important trajectory in Western culture since the Renaissance, which has made acts of male self-presentation hinge on the use of perfect dress as prized commodity. It has facilitated power-dressing, romantic courtship as well as pleasure in novelty, experiment and technological advance.
A Young Man’s Progress is on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge from 23 March to September 2015 – this film tells the story behind the show.
For further information see http://thefirstbookoffashion.tumblr.com/