A new exhibition at Galerie Canesso unearths the humble origins of the fabric.

Regardless of age, credence or color, denim jeans are probably one of the most pervasive clothing items in America — if not the world. Their origins, however, have often been hard to chart. While many of us may think of them as a San Francisco, gold-miner invention, both France and Italy claim to be first as far back as the 1500s. These earlier origins remained a rumour until the recent unearthing of Northern Italian Renaissance paintings from the 1600s.

A new exhibition at Paris's Galerie Canesso showcases these works. Perhaps not surprisingly, the works depict poor peasants living humble lives.

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