Brides and Brigands

Houghton Library Blog 2012-05-02

How to spot a Norwegian bride?  Just look for the crown!  This 19th century hand colored cabinet photograph depicts a Norwegian bride wearing a traditional folk costume with a bridal crown or brudekrone.  You will notice the bridal crown has small metal discs and beads hanging from it which produce a melodic tinkling and according to some legends this is supposed to ward off evil spirits from the bride.  The embroidery design, cut of the vest, and addition of jewelry or sølje indicates the region of Norway where the woman lived.  Today the term bunad is used to describe this  ‘authentic’ regional Norwegian folk clothing.  Bunads are immensely popular, so much that there is a National Bunad Council, a government appointed authority that puts modern day bunads into one of five specific categories if they even manage to get an “official” bunad ranking.  Bunads are reserved for special occasions and celebrations and have become quite a status symbol in Norway.

  Italians on the other hand celebrated a slightly different person- the brigand.  During the 19th-century brigands or “banditi” posed a real threat to travelers in rural areas of the Italian states, but they were also idealized as daring outlaws.  Since Italy was divided up into many small states it was easy to avoid the authorities by simply escaping to another territory and the mountains often made pursuit difficult.  There is some debate about whether brigands were bloodthirsty and brutal robbers or more noble figures that often stole from the rich and gave to the poor.  Whether for good or ill you can see that the brigands captured the imagination of the Italian public.

To learn more about regional folk costumes in other European countries look at our online finding aid Photographs of 19th-century folk costumes, ca. 1870-1891 (MS Thr 845).

[post contributed by Alison Harris, Archival Processor]