My husband and I recently started watching the Starz quasi-historical drama DaVinci’s Demons. The series follows the young Leonardo DaVinci and his adventures in Renaissance Italy. I say “quasi-historical” because the show is built more around drama than history, though DaVinci’s biography is certainly recognizable. The man who was ahead of his times in thought and action takes center stage. The artist, the maker, and the intellect are all in play. Add in the Vatican, the de’ Medici’s, corrupt officials, more than a few sex scenes, language you think wouldn’t be period but actually is, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a ride.
The show’s interpretation of history is intriguing, but not as interesting as one thing to which I geek out in period shows and movies: historical clothing. In a past life, I used to make and maintain theatre costumes. It started in college and led to a brief career at a few Shakespeare festivals. I know my way around costume history and can usually differentiate between various eras, visually anyway. I love the knowledge that I have, but it’s also very distracting, for it paints everything I watch, be it live theatre or a TV show. And in the case of DaVinci’s Demons, it is the clothing, not the story, to which I pay the most attention.