Object in Focus

Epitaph with depiction of a pearl-studded cap, Denmark, 1582

Lady Dorthea Axelsdatter Juul, Epitaph in Bislev Church, Denmark, 1582







Epitaph of Danish nobleman Christopher Mikkelsen Tornekrands of Lundbæk, his wife Dorthe Axelsdatter Juul and their daughter Maren in Bislev Church, Denmark, 1582

Prepared by: Camilla Luise Dahl, Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen 

Photographs by: Erik Fjordside

Read full paper here.

A large number of painted epitaphs from the 16th century have survived in Denmark. Most are still in their original place in the churches where they were once placed. The epitaphs are often provided with a painted portrait of the deceased and his or her family. The vast majority are epitaphs of the nobility, but even a large number of epitaphs of members of the bourgeoisie exist.

Many of the epitaphs of noble couples depict women wearing characteristic pearl-studded caps. The caps are tight and helmet-like caps decorated with an abundance of pearls, gold and precious stones. In Denmark the pearl studded-caps appeared in the portraits of the mid- to late 16th century and were, according to both written and visual evidence, at the height of fashion in that period.

In the Renaissance, the cap was the obligatory female headgear. Virgins (unmarried women) of high rank had the right to wear open hair hair, while married women were to cover their hair. The caps had many different shapes, colors and qualities, not least because the cap marked not just marital status, but also social status. For this reason the caps came in various qualities from extremely expensive to relatively modest – yet none were cheap.

Not only the queen and the wealthiest ladies had pearl caps, even burgher’s wives could have them, although in more modest versions.

In portraits pearl-studded caps of this style seem to appear mainly in Scandinavia and in the Northern parts of the Netherlands and Germany and is likely to have been a local fashion of this region.




Related material (visual, textual sources)

Visual sources

Epitaph of Christopher Mikkelsen Tornekrands of Lundbaek, his wife and their daughter, Bislev Church, Denmark 1582.

Lady Dorthe Axeldatter Juul and her daughter Maren.

Lady Dorthe Lange and her daughter. Painted epitaph on alter panel, Hornslet church, c. 1580

Lady Thale Holgersdatter Ulfstand, epitaph on altar panel, Bosjö Convent, 1588.

Two daughters of nobleman Niels Skeel, epitaph Vinderslev Church, 1564.

Lady Sophie Ottesdatter Rosenkrantz, epitaph in Visborg Church, c. 1590s.

Lady Margrethe Skovgaard, early 17th century.

Lady Anne Jakobsdatter Flemming, tombstone in Kværndrup Church, c. 1570s.


Documentary sources

For more information about 16th century pearl-studded caps, see:







Camilla Luise Dahl, ‘Huffer till theris hoffueder’: Sen-renæssancens kvindehuer, ca. 1560-1630. Dragtjournalen no. 3, 2, 2008, pp. 21-49
Camilla Luise Dahl, Inventarium paa Klenodier og Klæder, som frøken Anna Cathrine af brandenburg medførte til Danmark, 1597. Dragtjournalen no. 5, 3, 2009, pp. 52-67.





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