Valentino opened its art history books for a vintage-feeling fall-winter 2012 show, with couture inspired by the Old Masters.
Choker-collar gowns in silk chiffon and crepe de chine blue capes floated past with the eerie, magical feel of a bygone age. Why the old-school references?
"We just love our past," said Maria Grazia Chiuri, one half of the design duo, after the show. "The capes are the idea of the woman as the new Madonna... like in Giotto and Boticelli."
But there were intentional contradictions in the style. One piece with a gentle V-neck had an on-trend inflated arm. Another piece, a belted jumpsuit in blue opium crepe, looked very contemporary.
"The idea was to give these women a new kind of regality, an elegance," said Chiuri's co-designer Pierpaolo Piccioli.
Two pale pink silk gowns, with fresco-like images of branches, had a Renaissance-style Empire waist, a look that has been making a comeback in recent seasons.
As ever, the incredible work the "petites mains" — the old Italian seamstresses — was on display.
One blouse and trouser ensemble, the program notes say, took 1,200 hours of stitching.
But, the best pieces were often the simplest. In some of the lavish garments, there was an overkill of embroidery, and the designers' message got lost.