Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-Century Italy (The Middle Ages Series)

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9780812239003: Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-Century Italy (The Middle Ages Series)

In the fourteenth century, garish ornaments, bright colors, gilt, and military effects helped usher in the age of fashion in Italy. Over a short span of years important matters began to turn on the cut of a sleeve. Fashion influenced consumption and provided a stimulus that drove demand for goods and turned wealthy townspeople into enthusiastic consumers. Making wise decisions about the alarmingly expensive goods that composed a fashionable wardrobe became a matter of pressing concern, especially when the market caught on and became awash in cheaper editions of luxury wares.

Focusing on the luxury trade in fashionable wear and accessories in Venice, Florence, and other towns in Italy, Gilding the Market investigates a major shift in patterns of consumption at the height of medieval prosperity, which, more remarkably, continued through the subsequent era of plague, return of plague, and increased warfare. A fine sensitivity to the demands of "le pompe," that is, the public display of private wealth, infected town life. The quest for luxuries affected markets by enlarging exchange activity and encouraging retail trades. As both consumers and tradesmen, local goldsmiths, long-distance traders, bankers, and money changers played important roles in creating this new age of fashion.

In response to a greater public display of luxury goods, civic sumptuary laws were written to curb spending and extreme fashion, but these were aimed at women, youth, and children, leaving townsmen largely unrestricted in their consumption. With erudition, grace, and an evocative selection of illustrations, some reproduced in full color, Susan Mosher Stuard explores the arrival of fashion in European history.

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About the Author :

Susan Mosher Stuard is Professor of History Emeritus at Haverford College. She is editor of Women in Medieval Society and Women in Medieval History and Historiography and author of A State of Deference: Ragusa/Dubrovnik in the Medieval Centuries, all published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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Introduction

If the fourteenth century fashionable could have seen themselves! Perhaps the first age of fashion would have sputtered out rather than caught fire. As chance had it mirrors adequate for head to toe scrutiny came into use only toward the middle of the next century, so the constructive exercise of self-scrutiny was close to impossible. Consider what those pioneers of fashion might have seen with inspection of their decked out selves: robes hiked up to the calf, then the thigh, right up to the brink of indecency; padded shoulders, tight fit, parti-colored tunics and hose, tasseled hoods, floppy hats, slashed and elongated sleeves, linings as rich as robes themselves; enough gilded silverware in accessories so that the swish and rustle of fine fabrics were set off by the clink and clatter of metal ornament. Garish effects, bright colors, gilt, and military affectations ushered in the age of fashion in Italian market towns. And this refers to men's fashionable garb, the curious role of women's fashion comes into the discussion later.

For both men and women the restrained, the refined, the carefully prepared aesthetic staging of self, based on a sober discernment of the niceties of self-fashioning, had to wait for a later day. The first age of fashion was blatantly obvious and adamantly garish, which goes a long way toward explaining fashion's initial impact on manners, urban culture, customer preference, and heightened demand for material goods in the fourteenth century.

Making wise decisions about the sometimes alarmingly expensive goods that composed fashionable outfits, both purchasing and disposing of them, became a pressing concern in the fourteenth century, not just in the prosperous era before the Black Plague, land wars, bank failures, and other economic misfortunes loomed over the Italian peninsula, but even in the second half of the century when fashion found its way into the normal routine of everyday town life. A fine sensitivity to the demands of "le pompe," that is, the public display of private wealth, spread from community to community. Display of wealth was a project for market towns where fashion flourished and men took up shopping as a diverting pastime. While the high style of court society had long been recognized by Italian merchants as a lucrative market to be cultivated and fed, courts represented relatively contained and inelastic opportunity. Newer fashion-fed urban consumption promoted a more robust, if volatile, demand for goods like fine fabrics and readymade objects of precious metal. Markets widened over the century even in the face of population retraction. More and more people became part of the fashion parade as popular fashions were interpreted in cheaper editions. Fashions leapt swiftly from place to place, encouraged by fresh ideas that were both playful and alluring. The pace of economic change quickened; where fashion led, townspeople followed.

These pages investigate the increased attention paid to consumption, that is, purchase and display of fashion goods in northern Italian towns in the fourteenth century. This was not in any sense the dawn of a new era in the medieval economy. Outside some mechanical clocks there were few genuinely novel products: buttons, for example, had become popular in the late thirteenth century and merely became more important over subsequent decades. There was no major reorienting of markets, imports of fine fabrics from the East were established well before the century began; there was no startling innovation in technology to promote the luxury trades, although it may be ventured that institutional arrangements capable of reducing market imperfections were introduced. For that matter, fashions did not transform class distinctions straight away, although here as well their potential threat to the social order was anticipated, criticized roundly, and sumptuary laws enacted to foil that outcome. Luxuries affected markets by promoting and enlarging exchange activity and turning urban marketplaces into proto-emporia for consumer goods, among them, significantly, fine, readymade goods. Shopping became popular and people of means began to care deeply about appearances.

Urban markets for fashion confirm the recombinant and adaptive forces at work in an economy increasingly wracked by war, plague, and other dislocations. Aggressive sellers adapted to compagnie de ventura (mercenary companies) in their neighborhoods and sold luxuries to soldiers when they were flush with their outrageously generous payoffs. In a certain sense there was a flight to quality in the north Italian economy, but that must be qualified as well, for it is apparent that an ambitious town found ways to diversify wares produced for and sold to people of lesser means. The relative wealth of towns was certainly a factor here: Giovanni Villani estimates that James II of Aragon and his brother the King of Sicily had combined yearly incomes lower than that of the city of Florence in the 1330s. Only Philip VI of France and the della Scala of Verona, who briefly controlled thirteen city states in this decade, significantly surpassed Florence in yearly income. And Venetian wealth probably outdid Florentine.

Venice dominated the luxury trades before the fourteenth century began and continued to do so when the century ended, while Florence rose to prominence in luxury production, eclipsing neighboring towns and absorbing both their expertise and some of their skilled personnel. Yet even this comes as no surprise: a few cities came out on top in a century that began amid widespread medieval prosperity in Europe and ended with wars and plague, as well as the first intimations of a bullion famine in Europe. Centers of production like Siena and Lucca were left diminished when their skilled emigrants moved elsewhere and inadvertently contributed to the prosperity of more fortunate neighbors. These two cities, early successes in the luxury trades due to industry and technical brilliance, demonstrate the danger posed by wealth acquired through superior industries, coupled with political vulnerability, and in Siena's case, a strategic geographic location on Italy's major north-south route, the Francigena. Sienese sumptuary laws, a reflection of the town's precocious wealth, began as early as 1249, and new spending brakes were applied to local consumption frequently thereafter. The prudent Sienese feared raising the envy of their powerful neighbors but laws did not succeed in diverting those who preyed on Sienese wealth.

Lucca began writing sumptuary law in 1308 and soon matched Siena in the pace of revisions. Even when some of Lucca's most successful silk workers emigrated and made the fortunes of other city-states with their handiwork, silk fabric of new design poured from local looms and, cruelly, helped inspire future raids on Lucca's renewing wealth. In a sense the two city states of Lucca and Siena were the casualties of the first age of fashion. Artisans raided, workshops pillaged, products imitated or counterfeited elsewhere, and governments bankrupted by efforts at defense or buying off mercenaries, their dilemma lay in their envied wealth and renewing pool of talent. The stories of Siena and Lucca are interwoven into the stories of their more powerful neighbors, who attacked them but perhaps just as disastrously, absorbed some of their finest talent as well.

The transformation to consumer culture can be told through the histories of a broad spectrum of north Italian towns. Verona produced fine cottons that were incorporated into luxury ensembles; Cremona and Pavia produced famed fustians. Padua, a prosperous university town, attracted customers to its marketplace and built up luxury trades. Prato, a satellite to Florence, was home to the loose-knit Datini trading network that at its apogee dealt in luxuries although it began by trading more pedestrian goods and weaponry when Francesco de Marco Datini first established his trading shops at Avignon. Many cities underwent transformation to shopping cultures that attracted travelers to their streets and markets even if only anecdotal evidence remains to hint at the magnitude of the change. Among these Genoa, Milan, and Bologna are of particular significance.

Unfortunately, fourteenth century disarray in the voluminous runs of Genoese "documents of practice" and some lacunae in civil records limit proof positive of substantive changes in fourteenth century consumption and merchandizing. In 1157 Genoa had introduced civic sumptuary law to Italy, rendering the lack of any updated sumptuary legislation from that decade until 1402 all the more problematical, for when Genoa gives evidence of renewed sumptuary lawmaking in the fifteenth century, civil authorities promulgated eighteen new codes in less than a century, proceeding at such a clip that two laws a year appeared on two separate occasions. Throughout the fourteenth century prosperous Genoese merchants traveled the silk route to locate the finest imported textiles, and as highly respected conveyers of precious goods from across the known world, supplied European markets with fine silks, brocades, and imported gold. Of course this does not prove that luxury manufactures or shops flourished in town, but even here tantalizing shreds of evidence may be found. Genoa's reputation in the gold thread business was established in the thirteenth century when noble women contracted with merchants for production of gold thread, which was then assembled in their own households employing servants who received pay by contract for their labor. This production augmented the city's reputation as connoisseur and purveyor of opulent wares.

The Genoese enjoyed a large reputation for enjoying luxuries and rich attire. Giovanni Boccaccio could poke fun at Ermino Grimaldi's stinginess when he refused to spend his great fortune on fine clothing or good food and drink, "contrary to the general custom of the Genoese, who are used to dressing elegantly." Boccaccio was assured of sympathetic readers because Grimaldi's fellow citizens were sure to sniff at his miserly behavior. Grimaldi wealth was legendary and far outstripped that of better-dressed neighbors so Ermino might well be counseled to learn to be broad handed and spread his wealth around. Abroad the Genoese advertised their ability to do business with their rich attire that recommended them without a word being spoken when they set one gorgeous foot before the other in foreign markets; in a real sense, fine clothing could be justified as a reasonable expense of doing business. Gold passed through Genoese hands in abundance, but as was true elsewhere, Genoese gold was intended for coining, for use in exchange. Closer to home, Genoa's supply of Sardinian silver was pretty well played out by the fourteenth century, and this would limit the community's future capacity to mint silver coin; so, as a matter of course, supplies of silver for fabrication would be restricted as well. This was emphatically the case as the fourteenth century came to a close and silver scarcities became severe. This lesser precious bullion, silver, which could be profitably worked, gilded, and sold as luxury wares, required importing from afar placing Genoa in competition with other centers of luxury production, which had far easier access to it since most new silver hailed from Eastern Europe.

Some direct indication of a lively local market for luxury goods derives from Lucchese silk workers, who chose to migrate to Genoa when they fled their own town after 1314. Not only the well-known migration to Venice ensued, but the Lucchese scattered far and wide and other communities profited from Lucca's highly talented and industrious work force as well. Co-operating groups of spinners, dyers, weavers, and cocitori (the delicate hands who unwound silk filament from bolls of silk worms) settled at Genoa, and this suggests a Genoese reputation for enthusiastic consumption at home, abetted by exports to the North. It also suggests a strong Genoese inclination to encourage luxury manufactures through government initiative, since efforts to provide a future home for Lucchese workers were reliant on government initiatives. As a result rewards fell to the Genoese. By the mid-fifteenth century silk weavers numbered as the largest artisan profession in Genoa, at 11.6% of all workers in local trades, with makers of silk thread, silk dyers, and silk merchants adding further to these numbers. The silk industry, on the rise in the post-plague years, had become the largest employer in town. For the purposes of this study it is a serious lacuna that the initial fourteenth century plunge into large scale luxury production in silk is so poorly understood, and that the link between luxury production and merchandizing cannot be traced in as great detail as in Venice or Florence.

In the last analysis visual evidence presents the most compelling argument for a pronounced emphasis on the consumption of luxuries in fourteenth century Genoa. In an illustration of avarice from a Genoese treatise on the seven vices, dating from the second half of the fourteenth century, a local goldsmith's shop occupies center stage (see fig.1 Treatise on the Seven Vices). One customer and the goldsmith dicker over price using finger signals while a third figure seated at the end of the goldsmith's counter tallies up the results. Within the shop hangs a pole from which a fine sword with a hilt, readymade silver belts, and fine purses are suspended. A chasuble and a spouted silver pot stand on the Turkey-carpeted counter along with other readymade luxury objects like an embossed casket and some tools of the goldsmith's craft. A fourth figure fills the doorway, his arms laden with other fine wares. Ostensibly he is leaving the shop, but he might just as well be returning with precious goods to be refashioned or pawned. A crenellated wall and a loggia occupying the upper third of the illustration suggest this market activity takes place in city space, thus all the features of the marketing of silver and gilded silver in the new manner appear to be present. The message: luxurious wares encourage avarice.

Genoa's Anonymous Poet (active 1311 to about midcentury) also warns about the temptations of luxuria in Poem 136, although soon thereafter, in Poem 138, he is caught up in praise for the marvelous jewels, furs, naxici (very expensive imported cloth woven with gold thread), and pearls that represented the high end of trade goods supplied by Genoese long distance merchants. The Poet believed luxuria was the outward expression of overweening pride (soperbia in his lexicon, that is, superbia) but this had become such a commonplace for a moralist of his day that he passes over the issue without much further comment. Nevertheless, a tension between condemning local spending habits while urging display of precious goods to encourage trade to foreigners is manifest in the Poet's comments, in a manner similar to other admonitory literature offered in towns. Cultivating wealthy customers while attempting to curb spending at home became a source of considerable tension in market towns.

Readymade goods that drew on more than one craft or trade were the focus of a dispute in an unresolved lawsuit in Genoa in 1359: it involved rights of haberdashers, pursers, glovers, and makers of leather laces. Who among them had the right to sell wallets, purses, and change purses, sheathed and unsheathed knives, hats, and gloves? The problem revolved around goods produced out of a variety of luxury materials thus out of different shops practicing traditional trades. Rights to sell at retail finished goods with provenance in various artisan trades, for ex...

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Description du livre University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2006. Hardback. État : New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the fourteenth century, garish ornaments, bright colors, gilt, and military effects helped usher in the age of fashion in Italy. Over a short span of years important matters began to turn on the cut of a sleeve. Fashion influenced consumption and provided a stimulus that drove demand for goods and turned wealthy townspeople into enthusiastic consumers. Making wise decisions about the alarmingly expensive goods that composed a fashionable wardrobe became a matter of pressing concern, especially when the market caught on and became awash in cheaper editions of luxury wares. Focusing on the luxury trade in fashionable wear and accessories in Venice, Florence, and other towns in Italy, Gilding the Market investigates a major shift in patterns of consumption at the height of medieval prosperity, which, more remarkably, continued through the subsequent era of plague, return of plague, and increased warfare. A fine sensitivity to the demands of le pompe, that is, the public display of private wealth, infected town life. The quest for luxuries affected markets by enlarging exchange activity and encouraging retail trades.As both consumers and tradesmen, local goldsmiths, long-distance traders, bankers, and money changers played important roles in creating this new age of fashion. In response to a greater public display of luxury goods, civic sumptuary laws were written to curb spending and extreme fashion, but these were aimed at women, youth, and children, leaving townsmen largely unrestricted in their consumption. With erudition, grace, and an evocative selection of illustrations, some reproduced in full color, Susan Mosher Stuard explores the arrival of fashion in European history. N° de réf. du libraire AAJ9780812239003

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Description du livre University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2006. Hardback. État : New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the fourteenth century, garish ornaments, bright colors, gilt, and military effects helped usher in the age of fashion in Italy. Over a short span of years important matters began to turn on the cut of a sleeve. Fashion influenced consumption and provided a stimulus that drove demand for goods and turned wealthy townspeople into enthusiastic consumers. Making wise decisions about the alarmingly expensive goods that composed a fashionable wardrobe became a matter of pressing concern, especially when the market caught on and became awash in cheaper editions of luxury wares. Focusing on the luxury trade in fashionable wear and accessories in Venice, Florence, and other towns in Italy, Gilding the Market investigates a major shift in patterns of consumption at the height of medieval prosperity, which, more remarkably, continued through the subsequent era of plague, return of plague, and increased warfare. A fine sensitivity to the demands of le pompe, that is, the public display of private wealth, infected town life. The quest for luxuries affected markets by enlarging exchange activity and encouraging retail trades. As both consumers and tradesmen, local goldsmiths, long-distance traders, bankers, and money changers played important roles in creating this new age of fashion. In response to a greater public display of luxury goods, civic sumptuary laws were written to curb spending and extreme fashion, but these were aimed at women, youth, and children, leaving townsmen largely unrestricted in their consumption. With erudition, grace, and an evocative selection of illustrations, some reproduced in full color, Susan Mosher Stuard explores the arrival of fashion in European history. N° de réf. du libraire AAJ9780812239003

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Description du livre University of Pennsylvania Press. Hardback. État : new. BRAND NEW, Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-century Italy, Susan Mosher Stuard, In the fourteenth century, garish ornaments, bright colors, gilt, and military effects helped usher in the age of fashion in Italy. Over a short span of years important matters began to turn on the cut of a sleeve. Fashion influenced consumption and provided a stimulus that drove demand for goods and turned wealthy townspeople into enthusiastic consumers. Making wise decisions about the alarmingly expensive goods that composed a fashionable wardrobe became a matter of pressing concern, especially when the market caught on and became awash in cheaper editions of luxury wares. Focusing on the luxury trade in fashionable wear and accessories in Venice, Florence, and other towns in Italy, Gilding the Market investigates a major shift in patterns of consumption at the height of medieval prosperity, which, more remarkably, continued through the subsequent era of plague, return of plague, and increased warfare. A fine sensitivity to the demands of "le pompe," that is, the public display of private wealth, infected town life. The quest for luxuries affected markets by enlarging exchange activity and encouraging retail trades. As both consumers and tradesmen, local goldsmiths, long-distance traders, bankers, and money changers played important roles in creating this new age of fashion. In response to a greater public display of luxury goods, civic sumptuary laws were written to curb spending and extreme fashion, but these were aimed at women, youth, and children, leaving townsmen largely unrestricted in their consumption. With erudition, grace, and an evocative selection of illustrations, some reproduced in full color, Susan Mosher Stuard explores the arrival of fashion in European history. N° de réf. du libraire B9780812239003

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Description du livre University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. État : New. Focusing on the luxury trade, Gilding the Market investigates Italian market towns at the moment when fashion arrived in the fourteenth century. Series: The Middle Ages Series. Num Pages: 344 pages, 14 color, 10 b/w illus. BIC Classification: 1DST; 3H; HBTB. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational; (UP) Postgraduate, Research & Scholarly; (UU) Undergraduate. Dimension: 237 x 162 x 28. Weight in Grams: 722. . 2006. Hardcover. . . . . . N° de réf. du libraire V9780812239003

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