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Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Bolton, Andrew with Barbara Drake Boehm, Marzia Cataldi Gallo, C. Griffith Mann, David Morgan, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, and David Tracy. Images by Katerina Jebb
336 pages
330 illustrations
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Since antiquity, religious beliefs and practices have inspired many of the world’s greatest works of art. These masterworks have, in turn, fueled the imaginations of fashion designers in the 20th and 21st centuries, yielding some of the most innovative creations in the history of fashion. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination explores fashion’s complex and often controversial relationship with Catholicism by examining the role of spirituality and religion in contemporary culture. This two-volume publication connects significant religious art and artifacts to their sartorial expressions. One volume features images of rarely seen objects from the Vatican —ecclesiastical garments and accessories—while the other focuses on fashions by designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Madame Grès, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Jeanne Lanvin, Claire McCardell, Thierry Mugler, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Gianni Versace. Essays by art historians and leading religious authorities provide perspective on how dress manifests—or subverts—Catholic values and ideology.

Processional Cross, Silver, silver-gilt, Byzantine
ca. 1000–1050
Evening dress, Gianni Versace  Italian, metal mesh, Italian
Multiple artists/makers
fall/winter 1997–98
Fragment of a Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis, Marble and glass, Byzantine
500–550, with modern restoration
Head of Christ, Glass tesserae set in concrete, Byzantine
12th century
Portable Icon with the Virgin Eleousa, Miniature mosaic set in wax on wood panel, with gold, multicolored stones, and gilded copper, Byzantine
early 1300s
Reliquary Cross, Silver gilt, rock crystal, glass cabochons, and possible human remains; wood core, French
ca. 1180
Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine of Hippo, Master of Saint Augustine  Netherlandish, Oil, gold, and silver on wood, South Netherlandish
Master of Saint Augustine
ca. 1490
Dress, House of Dior  French, a) silk; b-e) cotton, French
Multiple artists/makers
fall/winter 1998–99
Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609), El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)  Greek, Oil on canvas
El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)
ca. 1600
Evening coat, House of Balenciaga  French, silk, French
Multiple artists/makers
fall/winter 1954–55
Coat, House of Balenciaga  French, wool, silk, French
House of Balenciaga
Cristobal Balenciaga
spring/summer 1958
A Cardinal's Procession, Ottavio Leoni (Il Padovano)  Italian, Oil on copper
Ottavio Leoni (Il Padovano)
The Life and Miracles of Saint Godelieve, Master of the Saint Godelieve Legend  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Master of the Saint Godelieve Legend
Dress, Valentina  American, wool, silk, leather, American
early 1950s
Portrait of a Woman, Possibly a Nun of San Secondo; (verso) Scene in Grisaille, Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)  Italian, Oil on wood; (verso: oil and gold on wood)
Jacometto (Jacometto Veneziano)
ca. 1485–95
The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary, Netherlandish (Brussels) Painter  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Netherlandish (Brussels) Painter
ca. 1515–20
Seated Virgin and Child, Wood, ivory, brass, paint, gilding, North Spanish
North Spanish
late 15th century
Virgin and Child, Marble, gilding, French
ca. 1340
Devotional Statuette of the Virgin and Child, Oak, modern paint, French
ca. 1250–70
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Walnut with gesso, paint, tin leaf, traces of linen, and possible human remains, French
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Bolton, Andrew, Barbara Drake Boehm, Marzia Cataldi Gallo, C. Griffith Mann, David Morgan, Gianfranco Ravasi, David Tracy, Katerina Jebb, and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), eds. 2018. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.