Motifs in Renaissance Vestments: The Pomegranate Pattern

One of the most popular renaissance motifs, perhaps the most popular, was called the Pomegranate pattern. It should be noted that while the design is specifically referred to in relation to the pomegranate fruit, the design also included elements such as pine cones (pigna), thistles and/or lotus flowers. 

This particular design originated from the Middle East where the pomegranate was considered a symbol of fertility and immortality and this meaning translated to Christendom where it came to be adopted in designs both secular and ecclesiastical.  Two portraits can help to illustrate this point, the first being the famous portrait of St. Philip Neri, found in in the Roman oratory, showing him wearing a violet vestment that is comprised of a Renaissance pomegranate motif fabric.

A good example of how this might have looked in real life can be better envisioned if you consider this sixteenth century example that utilizes precisely the same motif on violet:
In the secular realm, there is likewise a famous portrait of Eleanor of Toledo, wife of the Florentine Grand Duke, Cosimo de Medici, where she is seen wearing a dress that similarly uses a material that utilizes the same motif:

Of course, this is another good reminder that for most of church history, there was no such distinction between an "ecclesiastical textile" and other textiles. Textiles were precious, scarce and expensive, and as such their usage was broad with the Church often being the recipient of "hand me downs" -- however, not in the undesirable sense that we might think of that nowadays.  These textiles were so valuable that it wouldn't have dawned on anyone to simply dispose of them. They would instead be frequently repurposed -- and the Church (at least at that period of history) was not particularly concerned with keeping up with the latest fads and fashions of a particular time. What it was interested in was furnishing divine worship with nobility and beauty. 

Here are some further examples of this same motif as seen in some other colours:

Rome, 1500-1510
While all of these examples are the same, each of Florentine manufacture and possibly coming from a single workshop given that they are identical in design, this was only one manifestation of this particular motif. Other variations of the pomegranate motif existed, some of which were far more ornate, or more or less stylized in design.  The following show some other instances of this extremely popular Renaissance motif as seen in vestments made during that period.

This particular motif is one that can be sourced today from select textile manufacturers.  

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