Original Watercolor — 12″ x 16″
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Since January 22nd, 1506, Swiss Guardsmen (yes, they must be Swiss, and, yes, they must be men) have protected the Pope. They are trained in hand-to-hand combat. They also learn to use various weapons like the halberd, a spear-axe combo for which the halberdiers—the Swiss Guard equivalent of privates—are named. Guardsmen also know how to use standard issue SIG Sauer 9 mm pistols and the H&K submachine gun, although these days they don’t carry those weapons—at least not conspicuously.
It is mainly thanks to Commandant Jules Repond (1910-1921), who was gifted with an exceptionally fine taste for colors and shapes, that the Swiss Guards wear such fine dress today. After much study and research and drawing inspiration from Raffaello’s frescoes, he abolished all types of hats and introduced the simple beret worn today, which bears the soldier’s grade. Furthermore he replaced the pleated gorget or throat-piece with a plain white collar. He also improved the cuirass and had it remodeled after the original design.
The colors which make the uniform so attractive are the traditional Medici blue, red and yellow, set off nicely by the white of the collar and gloves. The blue and yellow bands give a sense of lightness as they move over the red doublet and breeches. With the passing centuries there have been a few minor changes, but on the whole the original dress has been maintained. It is commonly thought that the uniform was designed by Michelangelo, but it would seem rather that he had nothing to do with it. However, Raffaello certainly did influence its development, as he indeed influenced fashion in general in Italy in the Renaissance, through his painting.