From Wonders and Marvels, Nov. 21, 2016:
One of the most remarkable books of fashion ever produced is an illustrated manuscript, created by a German accountant born in 1497. At the age of 23 he decided to document his life in clothes. Over the next 40 years he had 137 images of himself painted for inclusion in his pictorial autobiography. We see him working at his desk, preparing for a voyage, “flirting in the streets,” attending a funeral. Accompanying each portrait in this work that he called his “Book of Clothes” is a careful description of the style, fabric, and design of his outfit.
Matthäus Schwarz was inspired in his project by a lively interest in fashion which he saw as rapidly changing in this period of increased travel and international trade. He himself loved to travel and embraced the business assignments that took him away from Augsburg. As head accountant for the powerful Fugger family of merchants, he developed a keen appreciation of the luxury fabrics that were traded along with other precious items through the firm of Jakob Fugger.
As a child Matthäus dreamed of adventure and travel. In one of the illustrations in his book that reflect on his youth, he shows himself discarding his schoolbooks and yearning to enter the distant landscape. The caption reads: “My desire was to see foreign lands, and I liked to be dressed in this way.”
His wishes were granted when he was sent to Italy to learn accounting. Fashionable attire was essential for him to be able to project his status. But his fondness for expensive fabrics did not always work out so well. In one image he is wearing a French outfit that was stolen from him while in Milan. Moving on to Venice, he dressed a bit more soberly, all in black.