Coazzone,Trinzale, & Lenza of 1490s Milan

From Women’s Headwear in 1490s Milan: Examination of the Coazzone and Trinzale by Juliana Della Rena

For the past year, I have been focusing on developing my persona. In doing so, I began to study the clothing and accessories of the various city-states of Renaissance Italy. When I found the trinzale and coazzone hairstyle, I knew that was the look I wanted to achieve. This project was my first attempt at gaining such a look. (Pictures to be added soon!)

This particular hairstyle is actually comprised of 3 separate pieces: the trinzale, the coazzone, and the lenza. The trinzale is a fabric or metallic cap that fit onto the back of the head.[1] This piece was held in place by the lenza, a black and jeweled band which was tied around the forehead.[2] The back of the trinzale was tucked or tied into the coazzone, a hairstyle in which a ponytail or braid was criss-crossed with ribbon.[3] In some portraits, the hair is also covered by fabric while in others, the hair is openly visible. In addition to these three pieces, some portraits also contained a jeweled pendant which appeared to be pinned or tied on the side of the head.

beatrice_de este in pala sforesca

Beatrice d’Este in Pala Sforzesca.

The coazzone and trinzale became all the rage in Milan in 1491, when Beatrice d’Este married Ludovico Sforza.[4] Beatrice d’Este and her sister, Isabella d’Este, were considered two of the most fashionable women of the Italian Renaissance. As the daughter of Eleanora d’ Aragona and granddaughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Beatrice would likely have been familiar with the fashions of the Spanish court, and so would have imported this look to Milan, where it quickly took hold.[5] Nearly every female portrait painted in Milan through the 1490s portrays this hairstyle. It was, however, a short-lived fashion in Milan. When Beatrice d’Este died in childbirth in 1497, this look began to fade out, and virtually no examples are found after 1499.[6]
Recreating this hairstyle was more difficult than initially imagined. There is virtually nothing published on the creation of this piece; most of what I found included definitions of the pieces, but no real detail. Additionally, there are no extant pieces. Therefore, I began studying the portraits to create my own theories about how to make this piece. The primary portraits I utilized may be referenced in the Appendix.



bianca maria sforza by ambrogio de predis

Portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza, by Ambrogio de Predis

In studying the various portraits, it appeared as though there were a variety of methods and materials which could be used to create the cap. It could be netted with a woven band around the edge, as portrayed in La Bella Principessa by Leonardo di Vinci, or in the Portrait of a Lady by Francesco da Cotignola. It could be a heavily embroidered fabric cap, such as that shown in the bust of Beatrice d’Este and the portraits of Barbara Pallavicino by Alessandro Araldi and Bianca Maria Sforza Ambrogio de Predis. Another portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza, also painted by Ambrogio de Predis, is currently housed at the National Gallery of Art, and included high-resolution photos; in zooming in, this trinzale appears to be metallic wire. In short, there were numerous options. I decided to start with a fabric cap to see if I could achieve this look, and wanted to make it heavily embroidered; I have never attempted any type of embroidery before, and wanted to take this as an opportunity to learn. When examining the embroidery, I knew that I wanted to take elements of the trinzale worn by Barbara Pallavicino, particularly the goldwork. In researching, I determined that the goldwork would likely have been couched, a method in which a thicker gilt thread would have been placed on laid across the fabric. A thinner gold silk thread was then passed over the top of the thread to hold it in place.[7] However, I also admired the look of the pearls in a trinzale worn by Bianca Maria Sforza. Couching was also commonly used to do beadwork in period; the beads would be strung and laid on the fabric, and a couching stitch placed between each bead.[8] However, from previous projects, I have learned that this method for beadwork is unstable; if the thread breaks, many of the beads are lost. Therefore, I used a less common backstitch method, tacking single beads in place when necessary and applying rows of beads in sequences of 3-4 before passing my thread to the underside and back through the beads.[9]


la bella principessa

La Bella Principessa, believed to be by Leonardo da Vinci

Next, I began choosing my materials. Again, I had several options. It is likely that an extant trinzale would have been made of either silk or silk velvet. The silk industry was thriving in Italy at the time, and in the mid-fifteenth century, Filippo Maria Visconti invited Florentine and Genoese silk masters Piero di Bartolo and Giovanni Borlasca to practice their art in the heart of Milan.[10] The industry thrived under the patronage of the Sforza family, and in 1467, the Sforzas hired 300 weavers to foster the production of silk velvets and brocade.[11] By the 1490s, silk and silk velvet would have been easily obtainable in Milan, and so it seemed the most likely fabric used. I had worked in silk before, and was eager to try something new, and so I determine that I would attempt to work in velvet for this project. In hunting for materials, I found that true silk velvet (which would have had a silk pile rather than the modern rayon pile[12]) was exceedingly cost prohibitive. Additionally, it does not provide as dense of a pile as would have been seen in period.[13] Cotton velveteen, which is locally available and relatively inexpensive, also more closely approximates the velvet worn in period.[14] Therefore, I made the conscious decision to substitute a modern fabric for the period equivalent…



One thought on “Coazzone,Trinzale, & Lenza of 1490s Milan

  1. You have no idea how thankful I am, and how long I’ve been searching for information like this. My family on my mothers side if from Italy a few generations back, and as a white person I’m trying to move away from this lack-of-a-culture void that whiteness demands of people to assimilate. It is so hard to find anything on aesthetics, particularly hairstyles, from the region where my family is from, but this information is valuable as well. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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