The answer to this question may be in the works of an anonymous 17th-century northern Italian artist. In each of this artist’s ten newly found paintings (except one) he portrays a blue indigo fabric that is threaded with white. This blue indigo fabric, for example, appears in the jacket of a beggar boy and in the skirts of a peasant woman. Gerlinde Gruber, curator of for Flemish Baroque paintings at the Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, has dubbed this unknown artist the “Master of the Blue Jeans.” According to Gruber, it was unusual for a painter to depict the poor with great detail, which may be why jean fabric was not often portrayed in other artwork. The “Master of the Blue Jeans” however, did show the lives of the poor, and his inclusion of blue indigo fabric in his works could reflect the growing use of denim among the poor during his lifetime.
According to curators, the blue hue of the fabric depicted in this artist’s paintings is identical to the indigo that is used today to dye denim; further proof that today’s denim can claim northern Italy as its birthplace. But whether Italian or French, one thing is clear: jeans have gone from being a blue indigo fabric worn by lowly peasants and beggars to a must-have fundamental of a fashion-forward wardrobe, costing up to $600 a pair.Ana N.