Merchants, Princes and Painters

Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300-1550

Lisa Monnas

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Covering a period that witnessed the flowering of the Renaissance and the major expansion of the Italian silk industry, this volume examines the Italian silk fabrics depicted in paintings from Italy, England and the Netherlands over the course of 250 years. Lisa Monnas offers a masterly evaluation of these paintings as source material for classifying surviving textiles, giving particular attention to the identification of historic textile types and their weave structure.

Monnas examines a wide range of subjects, including silk as a marker of social status, the material possessions of artists and their ownership of textiles as props, the involvement of painters in silk design, and the repetition and transfer of patterns. She considers the evidence of paintings not only for the veracity with which the silks are depicted but also for their value as a historic source concerning the use of fabrics.


Lisa Monnas is an independent scholar.

"… A sumptuous book." — Veronica Horwell, Guardian

“... this remarkable book … captivates the reader with its many splendid colour illustrations and drawings of fabric weaves, and makes the subject matter readily accessible.” — Textile Forum

‘This volume more than lives up to its promise and should find its way to every library and into the hands of historians of textiles, art and material culture.’ — Mary Schoeser, Text Vol 37

"Monna's book is a significant contribution to the fields of art history and textile scholarship. . . .Monna's book offers a wealth of insightful research that will foster new questions and facilitate important methods of scholarship."—Kate Dimitrova, College Art Association

"In this extraordinary book on Renaissance paintings and textiles, Lisa Monnas leads readers through a sweeping history of artistic achievement and art patronage. . . . Monnas provides a vivid sense of the times." —Fiber

'This magnificent work includes numerous excellent colour illustrations…. It is both readable and a splendid work of erudition and research; an absolute must to all interested in early textiles and paintings, but also to the costume specialist, particularly given the paucity of complete surviving secular costumes.' — Linda Woolley, Costume

'Pioneering and lavishly illustrated…This book is the fruit of many years research. It has helpful glossaries and appendices, and should become a standard text for anyone interested in textile and art history. It is highly recommended.' — Jane Bridgeman, The Ricardian

"[A] densely written, carefully documented, and beautifully illustrated book. . . . Lisa Monnas's work is a superb contribution to the study of historical textiles, and her multidisciplinary approach is a model for scholars in the field."—Melinda Watt, Speculum--A Journal of Medieval Studies

"Monnas details in nine well'written and extraordinarily illustrated chapters the textiles represented in the art of Italy and the North; who bought, wore, and owned the silks; how these fabrics were used and perceived, and how they were presented in art."--Donna M. Cottrell, Medieval Clothing and Textiles

"An impressive and thorough study, and Monna's expertise is clear throughout...An excellent resource for students of the early modern period. Yale University Press typically produces beautiful art books, and Mercahnst, Princes and Painters is no exception."--Jane C. Long, Sixteenth Century Journal

Shortlisted for the 2010 Banister Fletcher Award presented by Authors' Club

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300111170
Publication Date: February 17, 2009
352 pages, x
100 b/w + 150 color illus.