(Fine Artist)
The Meleto Castle costumes, circa 1750, selected by fine artist Charlotte Hodes, lack a named ‘author’ or even any reference to a specific performance. In encountering these Hodes, in whose work the female form is juxtaposed with complex and layered surfaces, immediately noticed the way her eye was invited to travel across the sides of the torso by the “surprisingly bold pattern”. The “luscious and swirling” raised silver and gold embroidery “exists as its own object” in a structured composition of enlarged scrolls and flowers, “resplendent” whilst contrasting against the red velvet on which it is “encrusted”. “The other wonderful contrast you have is the tight stitching, which you probably wouldn’t see on stage; you can see the directional changes of the stitching. Then you get the contrast with the small, frond-like and flickering details around the edges”.

The Meleto Castle costumes would have reflected candlelight. The changing lines of the threads in the embroidery pattern, the moving, fringed, peplum pieces and the shape of the velvet garment itself would have absorbed and reflected the light in different directions, emphasizing both movement and structure. Notwithstanding the weighty impression of this costume, which was made on a hessian base and embroidered with precious metals, the ‘swirling’ motion materialized in the raised pattern of the embroidery against the velvet echoes the pattern and movement of a baroque dance. “This garment really evokes a rich atmosphere – the music and the ambience, all that is contained within it”. The relationship with space, light and movement are all embedded into this costume, which seems to be holding the dance within itself. When brought out momentarily into the light, the Meleto Castle costume maintains the spatially and historically sited performative effectiveness that has shaped it. “All you need to know about the world is contained in here”, concludes Charlotte Hodes.

On re-encountering Hodes in her studio to view the large collage that had been influenced by her encounter with the Meleto Castle costumes, one is reminded of the whole world being contained within the artist’s studio. The studio itself is an archive of fragments, forms, bodies and ideas, which afford infinite number of creative possibilities. She found immediately the sketches she made in the archive and the references she had from the visit, which led, in part, to the creation of the large collage being completed on the wall. The use of surface and composition, like the Meleto Castle costume, seems to hold the movement within themselves, the dark tones and the luscious and swirling forms that compose the figure on the page balancing the sense of instability of the figure, who seems about to dance her own way away from her pedestal.

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1. Large collage from the Series: Figures on Pedestals Collaged, printed and painted papers Approximate size 280 x 175cm by Charlotte Hodes
2. Costume from Meleto Castle, Italy. Pink and gold tinsel brocade, decorated in raised gold strip embroidery and braiding. Mid-18th century. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
3. Detail of large collage, by Charlotte Hodes
4. Detail of large collage, by Charlotte Hodes. Costume from Meleto Castle, Italy. Linen covered in crimson velvet with raised silver embroidery. Mid-18th century. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
5. Charlotte Hodes Studio