The theoretical analysis of beauty is deficient, the means of expressing admiration superficial. Analysis does not go much further than to substitute for an explanation of beauty the terms of measure, gracefulness, order, greatness, and utility; above all, the terms splendor and light are used. For an explanation of spiritual beauty, Denis traces all these terms back to the notion of light: reason is a light; wisdom, science, and skill are nothing but light-like rays that illuminate the mind with their clarity.
If we were to study the sense of beauty of that age, not in its definition of the idea of beauty or in what is said in a state of emotions about a painting or about music, but rather in its spontaneous expressions of gay enthusiasm for beauty, we would notice that these expressions are almost always drawn to sensations of light and splendor and to the sense of a lively movement.
Froissart was rarely under the influence of the beauty of things, he was much too busy with his endless tales, but there is one spectacle that never fails to inspire him to utter words of joyful rapture: ships on water with fluttering flags and pennants on which colorful coats of arms glisten in the sun. Or the play of the rays of the sun on helmets, armor, lance tips, the flags, and banners of an approaching troop of mounted knights. Eustache Deschamps admired the beauty of turning windmills and of the sun in a dew-drop; La Marche remarked how beautifully the sunlight glittered on the blond hair of a group of German and Bohemian knights. —Linked to this admiration for everything that glitters is the decoration of costumes, which during the fifteenth century still depended primarily on the application of an overabundant number of precious stones. It is only later that these are replaced by ties and bows. To further enhance the splendor by their tinkling, small bells or coins were worn. La Hire wears a red coat covered in its entirety with large silver cowbells. Captain Salazar appears in an entry procession in 1465 accompanied by twenty armored riders whose horses are all hung with large silver bells; on the saddlecloth of his own horse, attached to each of the figures with which it is decorated, is a large gilded silver bell. During the entry of Louis XI into Paris in 1461, the horses of Charolais, Croy, St. Pol, and many others, have numerous large bells attached to their saddle-cloths; the mount of Charolais carried on its back a large bell suspended between four posts. Charles the Bold appeared for a tournament in a festive robe covered with an abundance of tinkling Rhenish guilders; English noblemen wore robes with golden nobles on them. During the wedding of the count of Geneva at Chambéry in 1434, gentlemen and ladies all dressed in white covered with or clinquant perform a dance. The gentlemen also wore broad belts with many little bells attached to them.
The same naive enjoyment of anything that attracted great attention is again noticeable in the sense of colors that prevailed at the time. To determine this sense exactly would require an extensive statistical investigation that would have to include the color scale of the fine arts as well as the art of costume and ornament. As far as clothing is concerned, this investigation would have to be based on the numerous descriptions rather than on the few preserved remnants of actual material. I only present a few preliminary impressions gathered from descriptions of tournaments and entry processions. We have to deal here with ceremonial and official dress that display, of course, an entirely different style than that which dominates daily attire. Ordinary clothing employs quite a lot of gray, black, and purple. In festive and official dress we notice, first of all, how red dominates. No one would expect anything different from that age. Entry processions were frequently mounted entirely in red. Along with red, white has a significant place as a uniform color for festivities. In the coordination of colors any combination was tolerated: red-blue and blue-purple do occur. In a festive performance described by La Marche, a girl appeared in violet silk on a palfrey with a blue-silk saddle blanket, accompanied by three men in cinnabar red and pages in green silk. A preference for darkly glowing and muted combinations is unmistakable.