Historical Figures® News: May 2011

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Borgia Pope Alexander's Vestments & Regalia Gain Interest

 Alexander VI Full Regalia 1492 
There is a growing interest in everything Renaissance since the SHOWTIME Borgia Series began. Among the clothing styles of the time, only papal vestments and regalia seem to have survived nearly unchanged in design. 

Actually each Pope  was given or had made many new garments and accessories. Over the centuries, dozens of variations of each have been created each incorporating the holy and traditional symbols of the Church and the office. Perhaps the most widely known of papal recreations is each Pope's unique ring. Upon death, the ring is immediately and ritually destroyed.

George Stuart has created five Historical Figures® of Popes. Two of Pope Alexander VI are depicted in highly formal attire. Now Mr. Stuart has prepared the following commentary detailing the meaning and importance of the vestments and regalia.     

The following information is excerpted from the new Borgia Series Wiki.
Papal Glove and Ring

The regalia of the Pope on his coronation were to impress upon the communicants the manifestation of God’s splendor incarnatus in the person of his representative on earth. Although the earliest priests dressed simply, over time a grand elaboration evolved, especially at the highest levels of the clergy. Every aspect was symbolic. Over the centuries, popes commissioned many versions of vestments and regalia to be consistent with their views of simplicity or ornamentation. Many were destroyed or stolen during difficult times.

Reference Sources
The Historical Figure of Alexander VI was extrapolated from his images in Pinturicchio’s paintings in the Borgia apartment in the Vatican Palace, a portrait in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence and a bust of him from life in the Berlin Museum, and from other sources. As newly crowned Pope, he would show himself clothed very much as you see him here. These vestments would be changed often, as function and office required.

 Alexander VI in Regalia
Papal Tiara
The Papal Tiara, triple crown tiara or triregnum was a primary symbol only of the Pope. Origins of the three crowns vary, but as the Trinity is held as the most significant aspect of the Roman Catholic faith, this could be its meaning. There are others. 

 The Finial
The Orb and Cross
Atop the tiara, the orb and cross finial represents God’s rule over the world.

 Papal Tiara and Coif
The Coif
Under the Tiara is a white, close fitting cap, or more properly a coif. This was a standard article of dress for men. The cap kept the head warm and was often tied under the chin. It held the hair in place when heavier headgear was employed. And, as priests were tonsured, having the apex of their head shaved so the remaining hair appeared to be a form of crown, it served as protection against the elements as well.

 Cope of Vestments
The Cope and Vestal Hood
On the Back of the cope is the vestal hood. The origin of the cope was a Roman semicircular robe with a hood attached. Early Christians used this garment and gradually church leaders adopted it for ceremony and enhanced its decoration. The hood, no longer of practical purpose, was retained as a reminder of the garments humble origins. 

 Decorative Border of the Mantum
The Orphrey, Surpice and Stole
The decorative border of the cope or mantum is called the orphrey. In this case, it is a hagiography of the saints depicted with embroidery, jewels and embellishments. The cope is worn over a plain surpice, which has over it the stole, which is also encrusted with images and gold work.

 The Morse, Clasp
The Cope or Mantum, and Morse
The cope and the more elaborate mantum used as elaborate clasp, called a morse to hold it together across the chest. It is often heavily ornamented with gold and gems.

 Papal Glove and Ring
The Papal Ring and Glove
During the Renaissance, it was fashionable to cut a slit in the third finger of the right glove to expose the Episcopal Ring. These rings symbolized a marriage to the Church and were given at consecration. Early papal rings were set with a precious stone. The name given at consecration was engraved on the mounting. It is traditional for communicants to kiss the pope’s ring in salute.  

Hagiography 1

Hagiography 2

The images are of saints, are called hagiography and are painted on sheets of silk covered in gold leaf and set in gold bullion couching and large paste stones.

 Alexander VI in Mitre

The Mitre and Pectoral Cross
Here Alexander VI (1494) is shown at a ceremony wearing a mitre. The origins of the mitre in its recognizable form go back to the 13th century. Again, it has become ceremonial headgear for high clergy, loosely representing the wearer’s fealty to Rome and a secular as well as spiritual authority.
pectoral cross hangs below the embroidered morse. Crosses from the simplest to the most ornamental were always part of the clerical dress. Just above the morse is a ‘C’-shaped band. This is the top of the amice, a large, plain napkin with a stiffened collar, which is tied around the neck to prevent chaffing by the edge of the cope. This image is missing the stole, which was unfinished when the photography was taken.

 Cope of Alexander VI Full Regalia 1492
The Mitre, Cope and Lapplets
The back of the cope worn by Alexander VI shows the vestigial hood embroidered with the papal crest. The lapplets going over the edge of the cope are now decorative remnants, but in earlier centuries were possibly ties to hold the mitre or tiara in place. 

 Alexander VI Full Regalia 1494e

A Global Dispute
In 1493, a dispute between Spain and Portugal arose as to which kingdom owned what part of the Americas then being discovered. It fell to Pope to decide who owned what.

Sword of Alexander VI
The Line in the Sand
The story is that the pope had a map of the known world laid out in sand on the floor at the Vatican, and with a specially designed silver sword he drew a line down the center, thus separating the new lands of the Spanish and the Portuguese. Later, in 1494 the division was refined and codified in the Treaty of Tordesillas and announced in a papal bull.

Ornate Cross
Ornate Cross or Crucifix 
From time immemorial, bishops have carried a staff called a crozier, while popes always carried some form of a croix or crucifix. Alexander VI is shown with two styles of crosses. One shows the cross with equal, but very ornamental arms, all set with gold and stones - very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.

 Alexander VI with Simple Cross
Simple Cross, Uneven Arms

This cross is elegant and simple with three transoms or cross bars of different lengths. 

The Historical Figures shown here are from collections of George Stuart and Museum of Ventura CountyPhotography by Peter D'Aprix. See all the Historical Figures at our website and visit the Museum of Ventura County to see the current exhibit of Historical Figures.

For information about events, museums, beaches, lodging and dining, visit the Ventura Gateway.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Borgia Family Now on Showtime

George Stuart tells us he selects his Historical Figures(R) for their political power and how they wielded it for good and evil. The Borgia Pope Alexander VII and his family certainly meet Stuart's criteria and thus became important players in Stuart's Renaissance and Reformation and Movement West Groups.
It's Showtime!
The creators of the new SHOWTIME miniseries about the Borgia family seem to  agree.  Their release is a dark, but elegant production, steeped in murder, sex, religion and political intrigue. 

While Columbus was discovering the Western World in 1492, the Spanish Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia bribed, cajoled and blackmailed his way to the papacy. His eleven year reign as Pope Alexander VI was rife with all the sins. Some are even calling the Borgias "the Original Crime Family!" 

Fans of the series and the historical period have their own gathering place on the web at the Borgia Wiki.

George Stuart's Borgia Family  
For fifty years, Stuart has spun tales about the intrigues of Pope Alexander VI and his illegitimate offspring Cesare, Juan (Giovanni) and Lucrezia. In that same time period, a dozen movies, some serious, featured the Borgias and their infamous times.
Stuart's Historical Figures of Borgia family shown below can be viewed in more detail in the Renaissance and Reformation Group on our website.

Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI
Stuart has actually created two Figures of Alexander VI. One shows Borgia in papal regalia in 1492 (above).

A second depicts the dramatic partitioning in 1494 of Spanish and Portuguese influence in the New World. Both of Stuart's Figures feature the exquisite detail of ecclesiastical garments later attempted by movie makers.
In the SHOWTIME Series, Pope Alexander is frequently shown in formal papal attire. A special page on the wiki describes papal vestments and regalia.  
Lucrezia Borgia 
Depending on the historian and historical references, Rodrigo's lovely daughter Lucrezia of ranges from an innocent to a murderer. The worst of stories claim she had incestuous relationships with her father and at least one brother. In the best versions, Lucrezia was an obedient pawn in the family's political strategies.

Cesare Borgia
Of the family members, Stuart's vision of Cesare departs more from the SHOWTIME production. While Showtime gives glimpses of warmth and cruelty, Stuart sees only the darker side. Everyone seems to agree that Cesare was never cut out for the clerical position imposed by his father, and later performed well in military conflicts.
Juan Borgia
When a sporting fellow like Juan was given military command of the papal armies, it was not long before incompetence surfaced. Soon he was mysteriously murdered, and many historians accuse brother Cesare of the foul deed. Stuart portrays Juan dressed for Venetian Carnevale, a favorite event and akin to New Orleans' Mardi Gras .

The Borgia Historical Figures on Exhibit
In January 2012, the Museum of Ventura in Ventura California will open a four-month display featuring the infamous family. The exhibit will also include Historical Figures of Stuart's elegant Renaissance and Reformation Group.

Monologs Feature the Borgias and Many More Historical Figures
During the exhibit, George Stuart will give three entertaining monthly Monologs on the Renaissance and Reformation Period in the Smith Pavilion.   Contact the Museum of Ventura for reservations.

 Visiting Ventura and the Historical Figures
For information about events, museums, beaches, lodging and dining, see the Ventura gateway.