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