Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600
Evelyn Welch takes the approach of a cultural historian to explore how men and women purchased goods from 1400 to 1600 in central and northern Italy. Using contemporary documents (family papers, government statutes, auction lists), the author describes the ins and outs of the marketplace and all that word entails: church restrictions, shopping on credit, just measurements, and more.
Although Welch’s writing style, which tends to be murky, can present a challenge, persistent readers will unearth some golden nuggets: for example, Isabella d’Este’s “to do” list in a letter to a Paris-bound member of the Ferrarese court. Desiring a black cloth for a mantle (among other luxury items), the seventeen-year-old Marchioness of Mantua writes, “If it is only as good as those which I see other people wear, I had rather be without it!” Lovely illustrations in color and black and white enliven the text.