Thursday, 24 November 2011

16th Century Saxon hauben (snood thing)

As I am working on a 16th c Cranach gown (saxon), I need to create the appropriate accessories. I have started with headwear as I already have my first attempt at a dress. Many of the paintings by Cranach show women wearing what appear to be snoods –woven nets to keep hair bundled up and clean. So I created the snood below (Figure 1). Originally I was happy with the outcome of this project as this is the first time I’ve used precious stones and pearls on any of my medieval costumes. I felt quite spangly! However upon wearing it and undertaking further research I find it is not entirely correct and needs some alteration. I will discuss shape/fit, lining, bands and decoration as they are shown in Cranach’s paintings and how I plan on replicating this.

Figure 1: Cream snood - stage 1. Snood has been crocheted out of cream cotton and beaded with alternating cream pearls and garnets. a) worn with loose hair, b) worn with restrained hair

Shape / fit:
As can be seen in Figure 1a the weight of my hair pulls the snood down onto the back of my neck. A quick examination of all Cranach’s Ladies show the snoods ending well above the neck, typically at the base of the ear (Figure 3). Some like Figure 3e actually bulge out away from the head. This suggests that the hair was braided possibly similar to the style shown in Figure 2 before being wrapped in the snood. As the snood is a net, it does expand to accommodate hair growth which would mean the owner could use the same snood for many years.
Simply looping my hair up (Figure 1b) results in a much better profile and will ensure my hair doesn’t escape throughout the day. I have very fine hair and I can guarantee that it will get frizzy by the end of the day and end up poking through the netting. Tying or braiding my hair will help however close examination of a number of the Cranach portraits indicates the snoods were actually lined in an orange or gold cloth. (and here I was thinking that Cranach had a thing for red-heads.)

Figure 2: a) Saxon Princesses Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia – detail of Sibylla’s hairstyle (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1535). The contrast between the slick braids and the fuzzy decorative curls in front of her ears suggests this is a hair extension. An extant sample of this (b) may be part of Germany's National Museum collection however the information on this is limited (image taken from, 25/11/2011, image has clearly been scanned from a book and states "Nurnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Inv Nr T 2321 Haubenstock)

Most of the snoods worn by Cranach’s Ladies appear to be lined. In many of the images this is difficult to see as the weave of the fabric as painted follows the same grain you’d anticipate from loose hair (Figure 3a and Figure 4) however on some a cross-grain has been painted such as that shown in Figure 3b. This is further supported by some images which show a distinct colour difference between the wearer’s curls and the snood (Figure 3e). Figures 3h and 3i show snoods which have been constructed out of brocade rather than a plain fabric with an overlaid decorated net. Most of the snoods show an even distribution of the net over the fabric suggesting that the snood is actually one piece and the decoration is sewn directly to the fabric. Only in Figure 3b do we see the net pulling on the fabric suggesting it is a separate piece. Additionally this painting does not show a decorative band meaning the woven fabric and the pearled snood are not clearly joined and may be two separate pieces.

Figure 3: a) Old Man and Young Woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder), b) Portrait of a Young Woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530-1533), c) Portrait of a young woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530), d) Ill-matched lovers (Lucas Cranach the Elder), e) Judith with the head of Holoferenes – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, Metropolitan museum of Art). f) Old man in love – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1537), g) Christinia Eulenau (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1534), h) Ill matched lovers (Lucas Cranach the Elder), i) Judith with the head of Holofenes (Lucas Cranah the Elder), j) Feast of Herold (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531), k) Sampson and Delilah (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529-1530, Metropolitian Museum of Art)

Most of Cranach’s women wear a version of a snood with a majority of them pearled or gemmed. Figure 3 shows examples of the different styles. 3a and 3c have a flat band with simple embroidery while 3b and 3d show a black ribbon or tie to secure the snood onto the head. As discussed earlier the lack of band in 3b may be due to the fact the snood net and the woven fabric underneath are separate items. In Figure 3d, the snood is not woven but rather a decorative brocade fabric. This may in fact be a bag of brocade tied onto the head with a black ribbon though it is difficult to find evidence of gathering along the bands on any of Cranach’s Ladies.
As my snood has a crocheted band which does not sit close to the skull (it’s stretched out a little) I will attached a band of cloth so it can be fastened on securely. This with have the added advantage that I can leave small gaps which will allow me to slide bobby pins between the layers of cloth and surreptiously secure the snood to my head.
Cranach’s Ladies had many different styles of snood band. Figure 3c and 3e show a common leafy embroidered pattern in black. Figure 3a and 3k have a chain pattern that is utilised in many paintings. The snood in Figure 3f has a Latin saying picked out in pearls while Figures 3g and 3j use pearls in a simple geometric design. I rather like this style so will use pearls and garnets to create a simple geometric pattern.

I have already decorated the net of the snood with pearls and garnets (Figure 4). There are multiple ways of decorating the net shown in Cranach’s paintings. Figure 3c shows pearl work at the junctions in the net while most of the others have a net made of pearls (Figure 3f and 3g) or what appears to be gold spangles (Figure 3j and 3k). Figure 3j also shows the junctions of the nets being decorated with gems in gold settings. As I do not have the money to afford to decorate every strand of the net with pearls I chose to highlight the junctions of the net. I wanted to use some garnets as well as the dress I plan on wearing this headwear with is a deep pink colour. These gems were sewn onto the snood using silk thread after the snood was constructed. Next time I might use a thinner thread to create the snood and drill out some of the pearls so they can be placed during construction.

Figure 4: The cream snood is decorated with alternating pearls and garnets. It stands out well against unbound red-hair.

To finish this project I need to line the snood with an orange or gold cloth. These will be sewn together both along the net and at the band. The band will be decorated in geometric designs using cream colored pearls and garnets.


  1. Beautiful work. What type of cloth would you use for the lining?

    1. I've found that cotton grips the hair best, however silk provides the right kind of shimmer seen in the portraits.
      I've compromised by creating a silk lining with an internal cotton band.