When looking back at the Baroque period, one cannot ignore one of the greatest figures of the period, Napoleon Bonaparte. Under his reign, militarization was instrumental in advancing his power, but also his image.
Baroque, in terms of figurative art, principally pictorial and architectural, is translated in opulent dress, with particular reference to military vestments. The 17th century was an epoch of great power centralization in the hands of the absolute monarchs, and one of the tools to obtain this power was through the military, which in this period began to constitute a regular army, formed by professional soldiers. The association of the army with monarchic absolutism meant that the military’s ability, courage and even dress, were attributed to the prestige, efficiency and richness of the Nation.
Joachim Murat Maréchal de l'Empire, by François Gérard
This ideal was adopted during the Napoleonic era, where the opulence and luxury ostentated by the military was an indication of the prestige and power of Bonaparte’s empire.
Martin Knezevic Colonel of Croatian Hussar regiment in high uniform
Elegant floral elements, frog fastenings, tassels and oak leaves (which for centuries have symbolized strength and resistance, and the military) appeared in large numbers on splendid uniforms worn by the Imperial Marshals. The exemplifying figure of this military fashion is Gioacchino Murat, brother in law of the Emperor and appointed King on Naples under the regime.
Dolce&Gabbana Fall Winter 2013 military style coats
The reference to this military dress code is very concrete in the Dolce&Gabbana Fall Winter 2013 menswear collection. Almost as Hussars, (light cavalry from the period), the models descended upon the catwalk with the military splendour and grandeur worthy of any baroque empire.
Joachim Murat, King of Naples 1806-1808
The garment worn by the originally Hungarian light cavalry, the Hussars is called the Attila, (also known as Dolman), a tight, and very heavily embroidered short coat worn under military capes, enriched by Brandenburg style frog fastenings, cordons, tassels and shearling trims.
The elegance and opulence of the clothing went hand in hand with the courage of this elite regiment. And the image of the swashbuckling knight maintains its romantic ideal in the imagination of the public, and on the Dolce&Gabbana runway.
Written by: Valentina Zannoni
Special thanks to Lorenzo Baracca for consulting on the military history for this piece.