Costume design students’ work on show in prestigious The Bowes Museum exhibition
A series of garments created by costume design students at The Northern School of Art that were inspired by the female heroines of a renowned seventeenth century Italian painter are on show as part of a major exhibition at The Bowes Museum.
The costumes are featured as part of an exhibition dedicated to the Italian Baroque master Guido Reni, who is being showcased by the North’s museum of art, fashion and design in the first UK exhibition outside London dedicated to his work.
Guido Reni is critically acclaimed for his mastery of female beauty and the exhibition features works from prestigious public and private collections, including The National Gallery and The Royal Collection as well as paintings from The Bowes Museum’s own collection.
Ahead of the exhibition opening, second year students from the BA (Hons) Costume Interpretation with Design degree programme at the School’s Hartlepool campus took inspiration from many of Reni’s paintings, from Mary Magdalene to Cleopatra and the Death of Lucretia, and created a diverse selection of costumes and hats.
Jane Havakin, programme leader of The Northern School of Art’s Costume Interpretation with Design programme said: “We’re very privileged to be working with The Bowes Museum on this exhibition. It’s been an invaluable experience for students.”
The Bowes Museum Project Curator, Bernadette Petti, said: “I am delighted that the talented students of The Northern School of Art have been inspired by Guido Reni’s masterpieces and I am excited that an exhibition on a leading 17th–century master can offer an opportunity for students to have their work on display at The Bowes Museum.”
Employing many of the techniques that they have learnt on the course, from historical costume construction to corsetry, gold work and hat blocking, the students designed and made a series of elaborate garments and hats that are currently on display as part of the exhibition that runs until 20 January 2020.
Costume design student Alice Clark, who created a 17th century ladies dress for the display, said: “I found Reni’s work very inspiring. Although the women he painted are scantily dressed, leaving little to the imagination, it’s the time period in which they were depicted that most influenced my costume design.
“I used accurate historical research and imagery and a mixture of machine and traditional hand sewing to make my dress, which features a boned bodice and hooped petticoat underneath. The colour palette of ivory and blue was chosen as these shades appear in several of the portraits on display here including ‘The death of Lucretia’ and ‘St Mary Magdalene at prayer’.”
Heather Wilson’s garment is a reflection upon Guido Reni’s painting ‘Cleopatra and the Asp’ painting (ca 1628). She explained: “The femininity of Cleopatra is represented by the use of the ruffled tulle, with the pink being matched to her depiction within the image. This garment is taking her supposed femme-fatale qualities, shown through the short length, and contrasting it with the innocence and childishness of the baby doll cut showing how young she was when given the throne.
“The asp is contrasted against the amorphous dress with a sleek shape and dark colour standing out against the softness, representing the bold and painful choice of suicide Cleopatra chose for herself.”
One of the hats featured in the display was made by Molly Frankland, whose design was inspired by one worn by Guido Reni in his self-portrait and which itself features an embellished portrait of his painting ‘Saint Catherine’.
Ilona Haldemann’s design, meanwhile, injects a topical note by responding to the question about what would the Guido Reni woman look like if she had to adhere to Instagram’s nudity policy?
Her piece consists of two parts: the faux body, made from a champagne duchesse satin to replicate the soft lustre of his muse’s alabaster skin, and the draped silk garment. Ilona commented: “The exaggerated hips evoke both the ideal female form on Instagram, and the hyperfeminine depiction of Reni’s renaissance woman.”
The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni’s The Death Of Lucretia is at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co Durham DL12 8NP until 20 January 2020. Further information and ticket prices are available at thebowesmuseum.org.uk
The Northern School of Art’s BA (Hons) in Costume Design and Interpretation is one of a wide range of specialist creative courses offered at the School’s degree and postgraduate level campus in Hartlepool. For further details and dates of Open Days offering face-to-face discussions with students and staff and tours of the campus facilities and accommodation visit www.northernart.ac.uk