In the years between 1400 and 1600 Italians became the most extravagant builders in Europe. Wealthy citizens commissioned magnificent palaces, and displayed their gentility and education through splendid possessions. Many of these objects were novelties. Some, such as glass mirrors and printed books, are familiar to us today. Others, like birth trays, relate to beliefs and practices that have vanished.
The Renaissance was a period of profound change. Its revival of classical antiquity took place in a world of economic growth, scientific and geographical discovery, political and religious conflict. While reflecting these upheavals, domestic life also played an active role in the creation of art and culture. Social, cultural and moral messages could be found in a the furnishings and decorative items of the Casa.
House and household were both called casa. The ‘family’ that comprised the casa included not just the nuclear unit of parents and children, but also many blood relatives and servants.
The casa was a hub of activity – domestic, economic and social – and during the Renaissance it accommodated increasingly specialised spaces and objects. Visitors would generally be shown the first floor or piano nobile. This included a suite of rooms leading from the sala (reception room), to the camera (bedroom), and then the scrittoio (study). The basic distinction between sala and camera was visible at almost all social levels right across Italy.
In grand houses there were also rooms for specific activities such as music, dining and small parties, as well as areas that most visitors would not see: the kitchen, cellars, attics and servants’ quarters.
“Guide your guests around the house and in particular show them some of your possessions, either new or beautiful, but in such a way that it will be received as a sign of your politeness and domesticity, and not arrogance: something that you will do as if showing them your heart.” – From a conduct book for new brides (Pietro Belmonte, Istitutione della sposa, 1587).
The Sala (living room)
The Cucina (kitchen)
The Camera (bedroom)
Source: V&A Museum UK
- A Year of Italian Language and Culture: Renaissance Networking (becomingitalianwordbyword.typepad.com)
- Life in Renaissance Times (wholesalecostumeclub.com)