GARMENTS created by costume design students are on show as part of a major exhibition at The Bowes Museum.

Inspired by the female heroines of renowned 17th century Italian painter Guido Reni, students at The Northern School of Art created pieces to sit alongside the first UK exhibition outside of London dedicated to his work.

Museum hosting major Guido Reni exhibition

Guido Reni is critically acclaimed for his mastery of female beauty and The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni’s The Death Of Lucretia exhibition features works from prestigious public and private collections, including The National Gallery and The Royal Collection as well as paintings from The Bowes Museum’s own collection.

Ahead of the exhibition opening in Barnard Castle, second year students from the costume interpretation with design degree programme at the School’s Hartlepool campus took inspiration from many of Reni’s paintings, from Mary Magdalene to Cleopatra and the Death of Lucretia. They used techniques learnt on the course, from historical costume construction to corsetry, gold work and hat blocking, to design and make a series of elaborate garments and hats to display as part of the exhibition until January 20, 2020.

Jane Havakin, programme leader of The Northern School of Art’s costume interpretation with design programme, said: “We’re very privileged to be working with The Bowes Museum on this exhibition. It’s been an invaluable experience for students.”

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The museum's project curator, Bernadette Petti, said: “I am delighted that the talented students of The Northern School of Art have been inspired by Guido Reni’s masterpieces and I am excited that an exhibition on a leading 17th century master can offer an opportunity for students to have their work on display at The Bowes Museum.”

Costume design student Alice Clark, who created a 17th century ladies dress for the display, said: “I found Reni’s work very inspiring. Although the women he painted are scantily dressed, leaving little to the imagination, it’s the time period in which they were depicted that most influenced my costume design.

“I used accurate historical research and imagery and a mixture of machine and traditional hand sewing to make my dress, which features a boned bodice and hooped petticoat underneath. The colour palette of ivory and blue was chosen as these shades appear in several of the portraits on display here including ‘The death of Lucretia’ and ‘St Mary Magdalene at prayer’.”

Heather Wilson’s garment is a reflection upon Guido Reni’s painting ‘Cleopatra and the Asp’ painting.

She said: “The femininity of Cleopatra is represented by the use of the ruffled tulle, with the pink being matched to her depiction within the image. This garment is taking her supposed femme-fatale qualities, shown through the short length, and contrasting it with the innocence and childishness of the baby doll cut showing how young she was when given the throne.

“The asp is contrasted against the amorphous dress with a sleek shape and dark colour standing out against the softness, representing the bold and painful choice of suicide Cleopatra chose for herself.”

One of the hats featured in the display was made by Molly Frankland, whose design was inspired by one worn by Guido Reni in his self-portrait and which itself features an embellished portrait of his painting 'Saint Catherine'.

Ilona Haldemann’s design, meanwhile, injects a topical note by responding to the question about what would the Guido Reni woman look like if she had to adhere to Instagram’s nudity policy?

Her piece consists of two parts: the faux body, made from a champagne duchesse satin to replicate the soft lustre of his muse’s alabaster skin, and the draped silk garment.

Ilona said: “The exaggerated hips evoke both the ideal female form on Instagram, and the hyperfeminine depiction of Reni’s renaissance woman.”