The Lacey Baroque

There’s lots of research to be done in the history of vestments or at least lots of popularizing of that research if it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Two Sundays ago, I spotted this painting, “The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga”, by Guercino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It’s dated circa 1650, squarely within the baroque period. (You can click here for a better view and more details about the painting at the Metropolitan Museum’s web site.)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J. died in 1591 at the age of twenty-three.

Look at his surplice.  In both shape and decoration,  I’m inclined to believe it’s not what most of us would think of if someone wrote “baroque surplice”.  While it’s possible that it’s a consciously antique style, the late 1500’s are not very far before the baroque.  More likely (though further research would be necessary to be sure) this is simply what surplices looked like in the painter’s day.

This isn’t to attack lace on surplices. Folks should be guided by the customs and rules of the place they live and the sensibilities of those they serve.  But it throws at least a little light on the customs of counter-reformation Italy, light of a different shade than we might expect.

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