41 thoughts on “The Borgias vs. Borgia: Faith, Fear, and Fashion

  1. „What is that thing on her head?”
    “No, seriously, WHAT is on her head?!?!?”
    Well it’s called “ferroniere” and I’m not quite sure why you are asking. It’s hardly possible to imagine that you have never seen the portrait by Bartolomeo Veneto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hen-magonza/6685174329/
    “Faith and Fear has some nice locations, at least (filmed in the Czech Republic).”
    You know, this caption exactly below this picture is unintentionally funny. Because, FYI, many scenes of “Faith and Fear” were filmed not in the Czech Republic but on the original historical locations in Italy. In particular, this shot shows the very famous Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola:
    As for the question which show I find better: yes I have watched them both, from the beginning to the end, and in my personal opinion “Borgia Faith and Fear” is better, and by far. Because of much, MUCH more history( and under “history” I mean NOT torture, nope), the show’s boldness and originality, the complexity of its plotlines, the interesting written characters and their development , and lots of talented actors( no in this case “talented” means NOT anyone’s likeness to’80s pop stars).
    But I virtually have no doubt that if the only things I cared about were pretty dresses and pretty faces, Jeremy Irons’ sex appeal and a brother/sister incest I would seriously prefer “The Borgias”. :-)

    1. 1 — Have you seen the full portrait? http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bartolomeo_Veneto_001.jpg It’s idealized (the hair is not realistic, the flowers & jewelry are symbolic), it’s not Lucrezia Borgia (among other things, it was painted around 1520 & she died in 1519), & it’s certainly not anything a woman actually wore (hi, it’s mostly nude!).

      2 — All sources say Borgia: Faith & Fear was filmed in the Czech Republic, either on location or on set. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1736341/ If you have an inside source claiming otherwise, do share :)

      3 — History, I’m quite the fan. But for entertainment value, I prefer history to be shown & acted instead of recited at me. I can & do read books for that. If I need a soporific, I’ll take a sleeping pill instead of watch the rest of Faith & Fear.

      1. 1) No need to explain me how much idealized is Veneto’s painting – I’m not blind and I know enough about it.
        Nonetheless, two things are certain:
        – whether one believes it’s Lucrezia or not it’s impossible to ignore this portrait – especially because, you know, there is no single portrait of Lucrezia Borgia that is contemporary or reliable;
        – the headband in “Faith and Fear” AND on the picture by Veneto is ferroniere, and it was pretty common for ladies’ fashion in the late fifteenth century.

        2) Your sources are seriously limited. Here you go:
        That’s just a couple of many articles, all free published. As a matter of fact, the team of “Faith and Fear” crossed all Italy in years 2012-2014. And they also filmed season 3 in Croatia. :-)

        3) Entertainment factor is very personal and cannot be measured objectively. And I do love the costumes on “The Borgias”; moreover: even if the costumes are not exactly accurate either, they are probably the best thing about this show, imo. But to spend 29 hours drooling over the dresses? And accidentally falling asleep (out of boredom)and waking up in 20 minutes only to discover that I haven’t missed anything aside from a couple of outfits ? Not exactly my cup of tea, sorry. “Borgia Faith and Fear” gives me a lot more for both my mind and soul, even if not always for my eyes. :-)

        1. These are a few actual headbands worn by women in Italian city-states in the 1490s:
          Not the random belt-buckle-on-ribbon thing that Faith & Fear gave her. It’s wrong & doesn’t even go with the 1540s (also wrong) gowns she’s wearing. For someone who claims to love the “history” of this show, why do you insist on glossing over the wildly inaccurate costuming? That’s what Frock Flicks is about, btw. (FYI, your links are just ads, nothing else loaded.)

          1. 1) Hey, I never said this particular ferroniere were accurate – I KNOW it’s not. Still it’s a ferroniere, that’s obvious. Still, you asked what it is, I answered your question and expressed my astonishment that you had not recognized it – because Veneto’s painting is pretty famous.

            2) I’m NOT glossing over the costuming – whether right or wrong, whether pretty or not really, whether on “The Borgias” or “Borgia”. That was exactly my point: dresses are not that important for me.

            3) I know Frock Flicks is about costuming. Nonetheless you included in your review many remarks that have nothing to do with the outfits and their accuracy – at all. These remarks are totally subjective and express your personal opinion only. So I allowed myself to express MY personal opinion on two shows which happens to be different. Hopefully you’re OK with the fact that not everyone in this world shares your opinions. :-)

            4) URL shortening is a pretty common technique on the www nowadays and alas, I have no idea how to avoid it. In fact, to go to the actual pages one should just click “skip advertising” in the upper right corner.
            But regardless if you’re interested in seeing the links: the shot with John Doman you used in your review IS Palazzo Farnese. And Palazzo Farnese IS in Italy, not in the Czech Republic. :-)

          2. 1) I critiqued it bec. it’s not accurate & it’s not a “ferroniere” (which is probably not a period term btw, it’s most likely a 19th-c. term for the headband). I never asked what it was — I know Faith & Fear put something stupid & inaccurate on the actor’s head & was being facetious from the start. Sorry you never figured that out!

            2) If the costumes are not important to you, then perhaps you’re reading the wrong website.

            3) You’re allowed your own opinions, no matter how ridiculous, you bet. You can also get your own website & spout off there :)

            4) Try tinyurl.com — it’s been around since 2002, it’s free, & pages load super fast. And still, the credits in season one eps say ‘filmed in the Czech Republic.’

              1. Indeed, he doesn’t have the grace to concede on any of the points Camilla took him up on so elegantly. Still, it’s obvious who has and who doesn’t have a clue about presenting an argument and defending it.

    2. Very much agreed. The showtime show is a hollow, empty comparison. It’s only edge is beauty, which is inauthentic and unrealistic to the time. Levels of accuracy where not yet as high level as it would lead you to believe. Please note the 2 geniuses in this time were hugely out of place in there time, which any art history course would reveal.

  2. Francois Arnaud PLAYS Cesare Borgia (Showtime), Mark Ryder IS Cesare Borgia!!(Canal +), you’re welcome..

  3. This post was interesting, but I was sad to see the Showtime version treated with such favor. Borgia is much more “historically accurate” (neither are truly historical fact– they wouldn’t be good television if they were) and honestly they accuracy endeared it to me much more than The Borgias, which has the air of a cheap bodice ripper that’s half-off ad infinitum at Barnes & Noble. The intricacies of the papacy are, admittedly, a bit tedious, but Lucrezia Borgia, a blonde?? Redhead suits her delicious historical character so much better. Oh well, maybe I’m the outlier.

    1. Well, my review is (a) about the costumes, in which the Showtime version actually WAS quite historically accurate & ‘Faith & Fear’ was horrifically inaccurate (this blog is all about costume in historical movies, it’s our thing), & b) I found ‘Faith & Fear’ to be incredibly dull as actual televised entertainment, poorly constructed as a supposed drama, with tin-ear acting from much of the cast. So it failed on multiple accounts, not just historical accuracy!

    2. I’m pretty sure all contemporary sources labeled her as a blonde actually. It’s one of her most known traits!

    3. Sorry, I’ve very late to reading this. But, Lucrezia was a blond, she’s always been described as a blond. Why would you change the person’s hair color when it’s known? :/

      And maybe I’m sensitive, as a redhead, but “Redhead suits her delicious historical character so much better” is just ridiculous. My husband did his master’s thesis on red hair in literature and this sentence just feeds into what he was trying to point out and counteract. The trope of the sexy, scheming woman having red hair is just tired. Especially when it’s being imposed upon someone who didn’t have that hair color.

  4. “Pretty in pink.” To our modern American eyes, pink is appropriate to show the message of a good princess. But in the Renaissance, pink and other such pale colors were seen as the mark of poverty. To show wealth, the color dyes must be deep and rich. So while the style details of fashion in “The Borgias” are more captivating than “Borgia” (mostly due to Showtime giving it a bigger budget), it’s also historically inaccurate.

    I’ve watched both shows. To me, Showtime’s “The Borgias” seems blatantly designed for an American audience (disclaimer: I’m American). In other words, the violence is toned down, the plot lines and points are simplified, and modern sensibilities have changed the story. For example, in Showtime, Della Rovere expresses shock at Rodrigo’s use of bribery and mistresses, and Lucrezia protests arranged marriages. In history, Della Rovere used bribery and mistresses, as did most cardinals at the time, so the shock is out of place, and arranged marriages were the order of the day for the elites. These are examples of Showtime using modern sensibilities to have the audience relate more to the show. I find that “Borgia” has more ‘historicity’ than “The Borgias” and dares to get into the complexities of the Renaissance as well as the harsh reality of the times much more than the Showtime version.

      1. Dark pink was fashionable, but not light pink. The same thing applies for most pastel colors, actually: Pastels to us signify “delicate and innocent”, but at the time they signified, “I can’t afford decent dye.”

      2. Everyone seems to find “Borgia: Faith and Fear” more historically accurate, but did those of you who think it’s better actually SEE the costumes? It combined all the medieval aesthetic stereotypes, sprinkled with some random print, historical architecture motifs and no upper top. Otherwise, they would serve “Once Upon a Time” series fairly well.

        And as for the “no light pink! poverty! scandalous! she would have never!…”, here you go:


    1. Borgia has more accurate clothing in terms of the color. The Borgias wouldn’t have worn really really bright colors like they did on the American version.

      1. Dark colors are not automatically more historically accurate. Pale colors were used in the Renaissance by the upper classes — it’s a myth that that only meant bad dye job.

        1. They may have had bright pastel colors, but I don’t think they were too bright like they were portrayed on The Borgias. I don’t know, but dark colors were also used to show wealth as well as the pastels.

  5. The no-name actors and ugly costumes in “Borgia: Faith and Fear” are probably because of its smaller budget.

    If you have a show that has $50 million for 29 episodes vs. another that has $30 million for 48 episodes, then obviously the former is going to have prettier costumes and better production values.

  6. I was never able to get into faith and fear, I tried and tried but could not stand it. Mostly because I watched showtimes first im sure… I had to do a paper on the two and the borgias helped me a lot more than anything else did. But yes you did amazing with this XD

  7. The Borgias didn’t have really accurate costumes either. Yes they look more Renaissance and pretty than the costumes in Borgia, but the looks were inspired from the 1520s rather than the 1490s. The only really accurate gown from that time period was Lucrezias dark green and dark red one she wore when having her portrait taken. Most dresses from 1490s Italy had V shaped cuts or bodices rather than the square ones she wears a lot of later. Also, as was pointed out, the men have leather pants so that’s definitely not accurate. I know this was made for an American audience and accuracy shouldn’t matter (crying inside), I think it would’ve been nice to see some more authentic clothing being presented.

    1. Hardly any historical costume movie or TV show is perfectly accurate (that’s why this blog & podcast exist!). But Showtime’s The Borgias is at least 400% more historically accurate in costume than the European version, & that’s the point of this post.

      Also, please listen to our review of Showtime’s The Borgias for our specific critiques, linked in the first paragraph.

      1. Yes, historical costumes in TV show can’t be 100% accurate and I listened to your podcast, which I thought was very good and informative on what was worn in Renaissance Italy in the late 15th century. I agree that The Borgias had better and more accurate costumes compared to Borgia, but Borgia also did its best, in my opinion, to keep it historical and close to the period. It was also probably the budget they had, which is why some of the costumes looked alittle funky at times.

  8. “I get all my historically accurate fashion tips from Reign and Kate Beaton so this doesn’t look right to me.”
    This whole post is a joke. Yeah, a teenaged girl running a duchy then counciling the papacy ia going to make decisions like a teenaged girl. Which is to say, like a grown man but with empathy.
    Seriously “what is this head necklace thingy”, did you do a hot minute of research or….?

    1. This site(and the article) is about the costumes of the 2 shows ONLY. It is widely known that in terms of storytelling, The Borgias is MASSIVELY INFERIOR to Borgia. However, due to a huge budget, their costumes have always been dazzling. So when OP claims The Borgias is superior to Borgia, she clearly means it in terms of costumes only.

  9. Well, I personally feel Borgia is a much much much superior TV series than The Borgias in terms of story telling. However, this site and article is about the costumes and I agree, The Borgias is much pleasant visibly and is full of hollow fluff like exotic costumes and visuals to make up for its dumbed down storyline.
    I agree with the OP that The Borgias is a superior show to Borgia IF ONLY COSTUMES ARE COMPARED.

  10. I covet all the teal dresses on Showtime’s ‘Borgias’ hardcore, because teal is my favourite colour, but it also helps that they’re really well-made, & just plain stunning.
    That one teal-ish looking dress Marta wears… not so much – & if I playing a drinking game JUST with the metal grommets… I’d end up with alcohol poisoning!

  11. One of many things Faith and Fear did wrong was not to blow the majority of the meager costume budget on Lucrezia and Rodrigo. They could have put the extras and bit players in head to toe black- which hides cheap fabrics and a lack of costly detail work and also visually makes the point that the Borgia family stood out as colorful, powerful, and wealthy even by the standards of the elite of their day. BTW, while I agree The Borgias is a much more engaging costume drama, it definitely got creative with history. However, it is far more enlightening to watch The Borgias and then read some good books about them rather than slog through Faith and Fear hoping for an actual history lesson.

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