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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Jan, 2011 7:19 pm    Post subject: 15th Century soldiers hose?         Reply with quote

Hello,

I know this isn't exactly a topic on weapons or armour, but I have a question that's been bugging me and I really don't know any other forum to post this on.

I've read and heard that during the middle ages black was a color only worn by the rich due to the cost of dying clothes repeatedly in order to gain such a dark color, but in medieval paintings foot soldiers and archers are depicted as wearing black hose at times. Why would archers be wearing a rich mans pants? Did the artist try to make the archers look wealthy for some reason? This doesn't really make much sense to me...if anyone could shed light on this I would be very grateful. Happy

I have attached a pic of what I'm talking about, there are others but they are in a book of mine and I cannot find the pictures online. The book is "A brief history of Medieval Warfare, (The rise and fall of english supremacy at arms, 1314 - 1485)"



 Attachment: 85.83 KB
20100609203255!Battle_of_crecy_froissart.jpg
Note the farthest archer in the line on the right

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Matthijs Witsenburg




Location: The Hague, Netherlands
Joined: 03 Jan 2011

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 1:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are several factors to consider here:

*Quite a few pigments deteriorate over time, so what is looks black now may not have been black when the illustration was originally made.

*Medieval illuminators have been known to use colours for clothing that were simply not available as dyestuff (e.g. aquamarine). This suggests that using exactly the same colours as in real life was not a top priority. We modern people have a tendency to look at medieval art as if it were a photographic representation of real life. This is quite often not the case.

*While it is difficult to dye white wool black that stays black after repeated washing, black sheep yield black wool.
*Payment in clothing was quite common in the late middle ages. As was re-use of clothing.
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Mark T




PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have anything to shed in terms of the historical aspect, but I know that Gwen at Historic Enterprises recently sent an email to their mailing list saying she had black hosen in limited quantities, and that these are not usually stocked ... you could contact HE and find out what they know about this issue.
Chief Librarian/Curator, Isaac Leibowitz Librarmoury

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Christian G. Cameron




Location: Toronto, Canada
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 4:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd echo Matthijs, especially about art not being photographic. But if you look at a recent work (Gilding the Market, Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Sienna, or such like) that covers off the finance of war in period--you get the impression that late medieval warfare was big business offering massive short term gains, in cash or kind, to soldier.s English archers had all of France to loot. That MIGHT even be the point that the artist is making (look how richly dressed the vile and rapacious English are at our expense!).

Or he might just have wanted some black legs to balance his composition!

Also worth noting that black dye (really a composite of dyes and overcasts, I think) wasn't really all that rare. Lasting black dye--something that could survive a year, say--was expensive. But not mythologically, Tyrian Red expensive...

Christian G. Cameron

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those could be "russet," which apparently was common. I'm not sure anybody knows exactly what that color looked like, but I think the consensus is that it was some shade of brown. INCORRECT. SEE CORRECTION BELOW.

Dave Key wrote this in the Company of St. George's Dragon No. 10: "Black was an increasingly popular colour but typically more of a very dark green/brown (which faded rapidly and rotted fabric) made with oak galls mordanted with iron. Effectlvely reserved for headgear and fustian...by the lower and middling degrees. Good, true, blacks were obtainable but were expensive as they required substantial quantities of dye, principally woard, a process which again damaged the fabric and which consequently required a higher quality cloth leading to a higher final price."

The Dragon issues are available for download at the COSG site, and I highly recommend those as well as the fantastic new COSG clothing guide.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)


Last edited by Sean Flynt on Thu 27 Jan, 2011 10:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way, we should also note that the archers at lower right are not exactly cannon fodder. Some of them wear velvet-covered brigandines and fine helmets, including a gilt sallet (some of the knights also wear gilt armour). These might be meant to represent archers attached to a specific, high-status individual who would have equipped them as a display of his wealth and importance.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the replys. Happy

I did think of the possibility that the pigments deteriorated but I'm so used to the idea that paints would fade that I didn't remember it would have natural pigments and might in fact get darker.

Quote:
[Christian G. Cameron]I'd echo Matthijs, especially about art not being photographic. But if you look at a recent work (Gilding the Market, Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Sienna, or such like) that covers off the finance of war in period--you get the impression that late medieval warfare was big business offering massive short term gains, in cash or kind, to soldier.s English archers had all of France to loot. That MIGHT even be the point that the artist is making (look how richly dressed the vile and rapacious English are at our expense!).


Maybe I can use this as an excuse to wear black hose with my billman kit. Happy

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Glennan Carnie




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Those could be "russet," which apparently was common. I'm not sure anybody knows exactly what that color looked like, but I think the consensus is that it was some shade of brown.


Russet is a type of cloth (wool), not a colour; much in the same way Scarlet is a cloth. Russet comes in a range of colours, including brown and grey, or 'medley' (the warp one colour, the weft another).

Examples:

http://www.stuart-hmaltd.com/historical_fabrics.php
http://www.aidan-campbell.co.uk/textiles.htm
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jan, 2011 10:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:
Quote:
Those could be "russet," which apparently was common. I'm not sure anybody knows exactly what that color looked like, but I think the consensus is that it was some shade of brown.


Russet is a type of cloth (wool), not a colour; much in the same way Scarlet is a cloth. Russet comes in a range of colours, including brown and grey, or 'medley' (the warp one colour, the weft another).

Examples:

http://www.stuart-hmaltd.com/historical_fabrics.php
http://www.aidan-campbell.co.uk/textiles.htm


Thanks for the correction and links, Glennan!

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Al Muckart




Location: NZ
Joined: 27 Dec 2005

Posts: 309

PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: 15th Century soldiers hose?         Reply with quote

Hi Robert,
Robert Hinds wrote:

I've read and heard that during the middle ages black was a color only worn by the rich due to the cost of dying clothes repeatedly in order to gain such a dark color, but in medieval paintings foot soldiers and archers are depicted as wearing black hose at times. Why would archers be wearing a rich mans pants? Did the artist try to make the archers look wealthy for some reason? This doesn't really make much sense to me...if anyone could shed light on this I would be very grateful. Happy

It's simple, the people who say black was a difficult colour to produce are wrong. It's one of those persistent myths about the middle ages, along with the idea that all the peasants were filthy starving illiterates, that pink dyes were impossible, swords weighed 10 kilos and you needed a crane to lift a man in armour on to his horse Big Grin

Black is a very very easy colour to produce on both leather and wool. On leather it's the easiest colour after brown to do. It's mostly done with iron salts and tannins. There are some translations of extant recipes here http://www.elizabethancostume.net/dyes/

--
Al.
http://wherearetheelves.net
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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
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Posts: 243

PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the link Al. Happy
"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Mikael Ranelius




Location: Sweden
Joined: 06 Mar 2007

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 4:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At least a few of the Greenlandic garments found at Herjolfsnes cemetery were originally dyed black or blackish with tannins. However I would say that the color rendered with that method would be more of a very dark brownish grey rather than true deep black. But as already mentioned such a deep, uniform black would have been attainable by dyeing the fabric with iron oxide, although that process were known to damage the fibers and thus the subject of prohibitions.
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