Dr Katherine Bond

School of History

School of History

Katherine Bond is an IRC Government of Ireland postdoctoral fellow with the School of History whose research centres on early modern visual and material culture, dress, and ethnography. Following Art History degrees from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Katherine completed her PhD in early modern History at the University of Cambridge on sixteenth-century costume albums during the reign of Habsburg emperor Charles V. Before joining UCC, she was a researcher with the Swiss National Foundation-funded project “Materialized Identities: Objects, Affects and Effects in Early Modern Culture 1450–1750,” investigating the materiality and cultural significance of veils in Renaissance Europe.  


Outline of Project: 

In early modern Europe, one’s patriotic identity was expected to be worn on one’s sleeve. This was expressed in a popular period anecdote whereby a painter, having illustrated the costume of different nations, arrives at the depiction of his own only to be confronted with a dilemma: how to render the costume of his kinsmen, when their inconstant dress habits and love of foreign fashions permitted no single answer? This widely circulating anecdote emphasises the expectation that dress would transmit transparent information about people’s origin and identity.  

This research project investigates how and why the subject of who wore what and where became an urgent priority in Europe between 1500-1600. Popular visual culture began depicting the characteristic clothing of diverse social characters, categorising these ‘costume figures’ by nationality, civic identity, social and marital status, and profession. Hence the garments of a ‘Venetian merchant’, for instance, were claimed to distinguish and externalise his identityIllustrated figures wearing the clothing characteristic of particular regions and societies streamed into print series, books, albums, maps, paintings and more, becoming the era’s leading pictorial device for ethnographic enquiry. Often maintaining patriotic directives, circulating costume books added fuel to the popular contemporary notion that different peoples ought to preserve their own styles of dress. 

This project’s guiding ambition is to contribute new insights to the field of Renaissance cultural studies by revealing the decisive role of dress and its portrayal in visual culture in sparking questions of national identity and ethnographic enquiry. As well as the preparation of a monograph, other initiatives include cataloguing extant costume books and visual sources, producing a project website, hosting a conference, and organising a panel for the 2021 Renaissance Society of America conference in Dublin.  

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