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Buttons more than practicality in 1500s

In a recent Ask the Expert question, Hyde Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programming Jonathan Canning explained why buttons were used in the follower of Titian Portrait of Doge Petrus Lando, ca. 1545, in the Music Room of Hyde House.

Ties, Canning wrote, were more common and inexpensive than buttons. “Buttons often signified wealth and status, and thus could be exaggerated, as in this portrait, so that one could not help but be aware of the grandee before you,” he said.

Buttons of the era were made of different materials, including cast metal or metal wire, which was sometimes gilded to look like solid gold.

“One would assume that this Doge could afford solid gold buttons,” he wrote.

Buttons were sometimes were filled with potpourri to provide an ever-present fresh scent during a time when nice smells were believed to ward off evil. “As the wearer moved about,” Canning said, “scented buttons would have provided wafts of nice herbs and flower smells to counteract the rank smells common in the sixteenth century.”

In the style of (Tiziano Vecellio) Titian (Italian, 1487–1576), Portrait of Doge Petrus Lando, ca. 1545, Oil on canvas, 46 × 39 in., Gift of Charlotte Pruyn Hyde, 1971.50