Sotheby's Royal & Noble Descent auction exceeds in Sale with artist Zoe Bradley collaboration August 03, 2016 17:43
I met with Sotheby’s Old Master paintings specialist and magazine columnist Jonquil O’Reilly. A resident fashion historian and style ambassador. She inspired me with stories behind the paintings of the Old Masters and the traditions behind the garments and reasons for the styles of the fashion pieces. This proved a springboard for my own research. I began looking into paintings and costume books of etchings that documented the fashions of the time. I found the opulent wigs adorned with feathers, flowers, birds, and powdered with wheat flour stories fascinating. Visually these looked like works of art themselves! The enormous dresses with metres upon metres of the finest silks were tremendous fashion statements. Covered in ruffles, bows, fine lace work and jewels. We worked on scoring techniques with the papers to recreate the fine silks that were used in the court dress to emulate the luxurious nature of the fabric. A challenging but an exciting brief.
THE RED DRESS: EAST GALLERY
This monumental dress is 6m in length and 2.5m in height. It consist's of over 6000 hand sculpted paper ruffles and was adorned with magenta Swarovski crystals along with individual hand crafted roses and ribbons. The symbolism of using red and the shear scale of the piece was created for its symbolism, relating to vast wealth in the 17th and 18th Century.
Inspired by the Elizabethan period and the Spanish court dresses, the designs began with the Farthindales (the distinctive shape that goes underneath the dress) and commonly associated with the Tudor's and worked up to the plunging neckline of a corseted bodice complete with large puff sleeves. The paper ruffle textile was created by hand folding each ruffle and fixing into place to create a delicate shell like textile, that reflected the ornate dress style of the period. The metallic finished paper was chosen for it’s luminous silky quality.
SHOE: EAST GALLERY
These gold shoe’s were based upon a Venetian shoe, from 1700. Often heels would be worn by men as well as women. A fine and expensive shoe always had red heels and soles - the dye was expensive and carried a martial overtone. This fashion soon spread overseas - Charles II of England Coronation portrait of 1661 features him wearing a pair of enormous red, French style heels - although he was over 6ft (1.85m) to begin with. It was also indicative of how the wearer of a red sole or heeled shoes was part of the elite inner court circle.
The texture of the chinese silk was recreated through scoring by hand a scratched line across the metallic card to emulate this fine surface texture. The carnation and blossom flowers and 3D scroll effect were brought to life through pressing textures into the paper to bring these details to life. Every part of the shoe was recreated in acute detail, plaited edging and rolled strips make up the carved paper heals. The paper shoes were finished with a row of clear cut crystals that were placed around a paper buckle. A truly detailed work of art, if only they could be worn!
CROWN: NORTH GALLERY
This majestic sculpture was based upon Elizabeth I crown from the Tudor era. The crown is clad with over 3000 hand cut gold leaves and scored by hand 36,000 times. We finished this very fine detailed crown off by adorning it with Swarovski crystals and pearls. The detail in this piece really has to be seen to be believed.
NECK RUFF: NEW GALLERY
With a diameter of 100cm, which allegedly was the largest size neck ruffs were ever made to, this was technically the most challenging piece .
The 1580s saw the increasing use of lace in ruffs, it was a symbolic fashion accessory that showed wealth & status. The bigger and more frivolous these lacy wheels were the more ostentatious and vain the wearer appeared. We created a repeat laser-cut artwork inspired by Elizabeth I neck ruff, the finely cut details referred back to intricate lace designs of the Elizabethan era. We tried to emulate this detail through the laser cut design. The Ruff is created from over 30 metres of paper. The edges were finely cut to create opulence and delicate edging. Edges were historically kept crisp with straightening irons and we used the same method to give the paper a crisp finish.
WIG: WILSON GALLERY
The 18th Century was the era of big hair for both men and women alike. Women's hair was piled up into towering mounds, helped by padding and hair pieces and added chignons and this was to be my approach in creating the paper wig. Building the strands of paper hair onto an exaggerated mould, I was then able to build up the wig using all the decorations synonymous with this period, from ornament feathered birds, clusters of roses and bows with jewelled centres. Flower chains held in place by Swarovski coloured pearls were placed either side while a plume of feathers jutted from the back of the wig into the air. The fine ringlets at the back of the wig were twisted and rolled around modern day curling tongs, but that's about where any similarity with today's hair preparation ended!