Balzo headdress

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This portrait of an unknown Italian noblewoman has mistakenly been called the Turkish Slave because her headdress was considered a turban for centuries.[1]

The Balzo was a headdress worn by noblewomen of Italy in the 1530s. It was donut-shaped but appeared turban-like from the front, though it was generally worn further back from the forehead exposing the hair, unlike a period turban.

It is assumed as a fashion invention by Isabella d'Este, first documented in letters in 1509 and 1512[2] and well copied in later years.

The headdress was a throwback to a larger rounded headdress from the 15th century in Italy that covered the hair of the wearer.[3] Then the hairline was often plucked. Though mostly known as a woman's headdress, there is evidence that men also wore a form of the balzo.


  1. ^ 20,000 Years of Fashion, page 219-220
  2. ^ Luzio and Renier: Il lusso di Isabella d’Este, Marchesa di Mantova: la guardaroba, Nuova antologia, vol. 63 (1896) p. 462 and vol. 64 (1896) p. 667.
  3. ^ Balzo Archived 2016-09-07 at the Wayback Machine on clothing website