Monday, February 7, 2011

Clothing as Canvas by Jean Paul Gaultier

Virgin with Child and Angels by Jean Fouquet 1450
 (Painting in collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp)

In 1450, artist Jean Fouquet painted an eroticized version of the Madonna with her breast exposed in his painting "Virgin with Child and Angels".  Believed to be based on Agnès Sorel, a favoured and beautiful mistress of King Charles VII, this painting must have raised some controversy in its time.

In 1994, fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, no stranger to controversy himself, used Fouquet's image to create the fabric for this transparent and form fitting man's t-shirt and woman's dress. 

Man's T-shirt 2001.128.9 and Woman's Dress 999.113.3.1
by Jean Paul Gaultier 1994 (Photo by ROM staff)

Art and fashion become one in these garments with the clothing acting as canvas. According to Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Senior Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the ROM, these garments question "our historic and current understanding of fashion, gender and the body, as well as the role of religious painting."  Look at the positioning of the Madonna on the man's t-shirt compared to the positioning of the image on the woman's dress (back and front have similar placement). 

Installation shot Patricia Harris Gallery of Costume and Textiles at the ROM
Photo by ROM staff 2011
These two garments are currently on display in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Costumes and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Photo credits: All photos provided by the Royal Ontario Museum and are subject to copyright.