The Archaeology of the Netherlands department has a permanent space for compact temporary exhibitions about topics in Dutch archaeology. Until 16 March 2014, the exhibition Medieval Chic will be on display there.
Fashion for everyone
Fashion in the Middle Ages was more bold and brash than most people realize. This small-scale exhibition provides the proof: people of all social classes had lavishly decorated belts and leather bags, often embellished with flashy metal ornaments. Precious fabrics in bright colours were also popular.
Ostentatious metal decorations
Most of the objects in the exhibition come from the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities. In addition, there are loans from twelve Dutch and Flemish cities. You will find pendants, brooches, and badges, as well as dozens of leather belts, bags, and shoes decorated on all sides with small metal mounts. Similar ornaments were used on horse tack and collars for domestic animals, to provide rich decoration and reinforcement
Bright colours, gold, and silver
Medieval art works often show accessories decorated with gold and silver. Costly fabrics in bright colours were also a frequent sight. Details from art works (paintings, manuscripts, and tapestries) have been incorporated into the design of the exhibition. All in all, it presents a new perspective on late medieval fashion, which was much more glamorous than we usually suppose.
Medium for messages and identity
‘All the common people wear belts with silver mounts,’ the fifteenth-century author of the Spiegel der Zonden (Mirror of Sins) complained. What is striking is the diversity of such decorations and the variety of ways they were used. Mounts on belts and bags were evidently an ideal medium for conveying messages and expressing your personal identity. They include surprisingly many letters and symbols: gold and silver-coloured nails and bits of metal, typically made of inexpensive sheet copper or pewter.
Europe's largest collection
The National Museum of Antiquities has Europe's largest collection of late medieval 'belt mounts', with more than 1,500 different mounts and some eighty fragments of leather bags and shoes with mounts. Most of them were found in the ‘Verdronken Land’ (Drowned Land), a marshy area in the Dutch province of Zeeland, and in Dordrecht.