12 Hats from Art History Fit for the Royal Wedding
Millions of viewers across the globe are predicted to tune in for tomorrow’s royal wedding, between American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Henry of Wales, otherwise known as Prince Harry. Some will watch for a glimpse of Markle’s much-anticipated gown; others to coo at three-year-old Princess Charlotte’s antics, or to muse at the monarchy’s extravagance.
And then, there’s the group of us who will be on the lookout for fascinators: those extravagant, baffling hats that top the heads of ladies and the occasional gentleman at many a British wedding. Remember the wildly flamboyant accessory Princess Beatrice wore to William and Kate’s nuptials? It resembled a spiraling,
Fascinators, as we know them today, came onto the sartorial scene in the 1960s thanks to an American milliner named John P. John, who decorated his clients’ beehive updos with bits of fabric and other frippery. The style drew from miniature hats of decades past, like European doll hats from the 1940s, which perched jauntily on various parts of the head and were donned as a means of resisting the period of austerity that resulted from Nazi occupation.
Through the ages, hats have held countless functions, whether for protection or decoration. They’ve also been used to signify status, resistance, cultural identity, and celebration—all of which have been documented throughout art history. Below, we bring you 12 hats found in paintings and photographs from the Renaissance to the 1960s that represent both daily life and jubilant occasions. And, in our opinion, they are all fit for a royal wedding.
Piero Della Francesca, Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, ca. 1474
Italian Renaissance master
Bartolomeo Veneto, St Catherine Crowned, ca. 1520
Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun, The Vicomtesse de Vaudreuil, 1785
A favorite portraitist of Marie Antoinette and the French aristocracy of the 18th century,
Katsushika Hokusai, Becoming a Young Woman, ca. 1820
During the Edo period, kanzashi, decorated with a crown of red flowers.
Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), 1905
This vibrant canvas, a portrait of Supposedly, Amélie was actually wearing all black when she sat for her husband.
Baya, Femme robe jaune cheveux bleus, 1947
Algerian artist the course of her life, in paintings that only depicted women (never men), and imagined a world in which they were independent and free of male domination. This was a radical choice in the mid-20th century art world. Baya drove home her reverence of women and their power by crowning many of her subjects, like this one, with elaborate headdresses resembling crowns fit for queens and goddesses.
Frida Kahlo, Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana), 1943
In one of
René Magritte, La Décalcomanie, 1966
Bowler hats crop up over 50 times across
Leonora Carrington, La virgen de las naranjas
Instead of the femme-enfant, or woman-child, that male Surrealists often depicted in their work,
Seydou Keïta, Sans titre (13132), ca. 1950
once said that his goal was to capture the “best possible image of each person,” and the resulting images often present his sitters in their favorite or finest outfits, surrounded by meaningful objects. “The clothes, accessories, and objects give a personal, and even intimate, dimension to the portraits,” art critic Julie Crenn has written. “They account for a personality, a group, who they are and how they want to be seen.” Here, the woman’s adorned hat tops off an elaborate outfit that conveys self-confidence.
Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli, Shoe Hat, 1937–38
Surrealist artists like
Bert Stern, Jean Shrimpton, 1963
Alexxa Gotthardt is a contributing writer for Artsy.