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Lucco: a garment for the Florentines

Many of the wonderful works of art by florentine painters of the late XV and early XVI century show us men dressed in rich garments, a direct depiction of the wealth of the highest members of the society from the city along the Arno river.

Among the male garments, there is one which is clearly particularly important, since it appears in most of the portaits and is visible in other works.

It is an overgarment with a high neckline and wide shape, opened on the sides and on the front.

Probably the most famous example of this kind of overdress, which was used sometimes directly over the farsetto, or over another overgarment, is the portrait of Nicolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito now in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, painted some decades after the death of the great politician.

But other portraits show that the garment could be also red (wihich is not a surprise, because all the nuances of that colour were considered rich and elegant.

Among those we can show two works by Domenico Ghirlandaio, dated in the last quarter of the XV century.

The first one is shown here: it is a male portrait now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the other one is a detail from the frescoes in Santa Maria Novella, in Florence.

The two men on the left show a similar garment, opened on the side and lineed with a different colour textile. In this case it is worn over the farsetto, showing that the scene takes place in warm weather (and infact it is an episode of Jesus's life).

Going through the Renaissance florentine authors, there is a very clear description of this garment, named LUCCO, in one important writer from the mid XVI century: Benedetto Varchi.

In his Storie Fiorentine (Florentine History) he writes: "The clothing used by Florentine citizens, older than 18, when they go around in the city, is a in summer is , a black twill or wool garment, almost long to the heel (and for Doctors and other important people, without almost), with usually black silken lining (taffeta or erminsin or tabì, a heavier silken fabric). The garment is opened in the front and on the sides, from where the arms come out, and it is crinkled on the top, where it is closed at the base of the neck with one or two hooks from the inside, or sometimes with ribbons or autside laces.

And this garment is named lucco.

It is a very confortable and elegant clothing, and in winter the richest and noblest still wear it, but lined with fur or velvet and sometimes in damask."

The idea given by Varchi is that this is a typical florentine garment, used as a traditional piece of clothing, but a closer look at other sources of that period show also a different and very important reason to wear it.

But this is matter for another article...

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