A curious article of clothing:  the quality of the fabrics used are very fine and the techniques of its manufacture and embellishment are dazzling.

And always a sign of status because of the time involved in its manufacture, not to speak of its maintenance.  Now limited mostly to couture.

Ruff wearers create their own spotlight.

Ruff wearers say that all that is necessary is that we stop and pay silent, admiring attention while they position themselves in their spotlight.  For which they have, after all, somewhat restricted their movement.

A curiosity. But fabulous in its insouciance, its theatricality, its excessiveness and exuberance.



Portrait of a Man and detail, 1632, oil on wood.  Rembrandt, 1609-1669, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Junya Watanabe Dress with neck ruff

Junya Watanabe, Fall/Winter couture, 2000 

A ruff which seems to have arrived from outer space to land haphazardly.


Portrait of a Gentleman in a Fancy Ruff, oil on copper, 1627.  Thomas de Keyser, 1596/7 – 1667.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Giambattista  Valli, Italian, Fall 2014 couture


Portrait of a Gentleman, and detail, c. 1615, oil on panel.  Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, Flemish.  Philadelphia Museum of Art


Jun Takahashi, Japanese, born 1969, couture for Undercover, Fashion Week, March 2017, Paris



Herman Doomer and detail, oil on wood, 1640.  Rembrandt, 1606-1669, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Jean Paul Gaultier Autumn 2016.

  Ruff gone to the hips


Portrait of a Man with a Ruff, 1625, oil on canvas.  Frans Hals, 1582/3-1666, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Jean Paul Gaultier, French, born 1952,  Autumn 2016 couture.

  Ruff gone to the head.


Mara Theresa, Infanta of Spain (1638-1683), oil on canvas, 1651-4.  Velazquez, 1599-1660, Spanish.  Metropolitan Museum, NY.

Half ruffs in the royal coiffure


A member of the Hispanic community of the greater Philadelphia area marking a birthday rite of passage with photographs in the conservatory of Longwood Gardens, April 2, 2017



Portrait of a Woman, probably a member of the Van Beresteyn family, and detail, 1632, oil on canvas.  Rembrandt, 1606-1669, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Gianbattista Valli, Italian.  Spring couture, 2016


Portrait of a Woman said to be Madame Charles Simon Favart, 1727-1772; oil on canvas, 1757.  Francois Robert Drouais, 1727-1775, French.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


Roberto Capucci, Italian, born 1930. Couture of unknown date


Dancers, 1906, ink on paper.  Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880-1938.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY


Tight Rope Walker, oil on canvas, 1885.  Jean-Louis Forain, 1852-1931, French. The Art Institute of Chicago on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY winter/spring 2016-17




Girl in a Red Ruff, 1884, oil on canvas.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919, French.  Philadelphia Museum of Art




I don’t know the details of this exquisite little portrait, barely 18 inches tall, which is at the Metropolitan Museum, NY

Gareth Pugh, British, born 1981; Spring 2009 couture, Paris


Portrait of the Countess of Tournon, 1812, oil on canvas.  Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres, 1780-1867, French.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

The real ruff,  Philomachus Pugnax, a sandpiper whose stamping grounds extend from northern Eurasia to southern and western Europe, southern Asia, Africa and Australia.


Dress, spring/summer, 2011 by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.  Black silk organza with orange feathers painted with black and white pigment. On display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015.


Issey Miyake, 1993 (recreated 2016).  ‘Pleats Please’.  Machine sewn polyester plain weave, machine garment pleated in paper.

  Ruffs stretched to the full body and wired.


Marchese Brigida Spinola Doria, oil on canvas, 1606.  Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, Flemish.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Molly Goddard, British fashion designer, born 1988.  March 2017 couture, Paris

The Ermine Portrait of Elizabeth I, 1585, oil on canvas. Nicholas Hilliard, 1547-1619, English.  Hatfield House, England 

The Queen of ruffs


Lanvin-Castillo.  Lanvin (the company founded by Jeanne Lanvin, died 1946), French, active 1950-1962.  Antonio del Castillo, 1908-1984, Spanish.  Evening dress, 1956, of light purple, nylon tulle.  Metropolitan Museum of Art on display in the summer of 2016 

Ruff to the tail

Gianbatistta Valli,  Winter/Spring, 2016/2017 haute couture

Full-body ruffs


Charles I, 1600-1649, King of England, 1629, oil on canvas.  Daniel Mijtens, 1590-1647, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum, NY 

Deruffed by the Roundheads and their allies in 1649 for bringing disorder and chaos to the realm.



Send in the Clowns


The most fabulous ruffians of them all, now almost disappeared from our world:  the sad bright ones



Detail of a vast tableau, Grimaces of Misery – The Saltimbanques, 1888, oil on canvas.  Fernand Pelez, 1848-1913. Petit Palais, Musee de Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the winter/spring of 2016-17



Clown making up, 1910, oil on canvas.  John Sloan, 1871-1951, American.  The Philips Collection, Washington, DC


Bring Down the Curtain, the Farce is Over, lithograph, 1834.  Honore Daumier, 1808-1878, French.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


Sideshow (Parade):  Pierrot presents his Companions, Harlequin and Polichinelle to the Crowd, 1846, oil on wood.  Octave Penguilly-l’Haridon, 1811-1870, French.  Musees de Poitiers on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the winter/spring of 2016-17



Sideshow (Parade), 1907-1910, watercolour, oil, ink and pastel on paper, laid down on canvas.  Georges Rouault, 1871-1958, French. Centre Pompidou, Paris on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in the winter/spring of 2016/17



Seated Harlequin, 1901, oil on canvas mounted to a sheet of pressed cork.  Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


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