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Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance

av Lisa Jardine

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
604328,295 (3.95)15
"Fascinating . . . Jardine's attention to the material side of things is an important explanatory complement to the many histories of the period that have dwelt on the sublime works of art . . . Real history is in the details, the small stories, of which WORLDLY GOODS is a treasure house." Richard Bernstein, The New York Times… (mer)
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    Masque of the Gonzagas av Clare Colvin (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: One history, one fiction, but both covering the same territory - the rich cultural life of the Renaissance and how that played into displays of wealth and power.
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This fascinating book is essentially a look at how important things, and money, were in shaping what we now think of as the world of the Renaissance.

It starts with an analysis of the National Gallery Crivelli annunciation, a "meticulous visual inventory of consumer goods" from across the known world as well as a beautiful work of art - and itself a desirable possession. Renaissance artists were craftsmen for hire, working to order for the rich and powerful - and sitting at table with the tailors, musicians and other salaried members of the household. Others who fell into this category were people who would now perhaps style themselves as lifestyle consultants. You could have a man to advise you on what paintings, antiquities or books to buy to display your wealth and taste. You could even have someone to pre-read the books for you - Sir Philip Sidney had a private reader who annotated a copy of Livy for him with marginal notes referring to modern parallels to the events in the text, and a number of cross-references to modern works on political and military theory.

Conspicuous consumption was an essential aspect of prestige and authority, often backed up by borrowing on a massive scale. Christopher Columbus' proposal to seek a shorter route to the Indies - and therefore bypass the mark-ups which the spice traders put on their goods - was attractive to Ferdinand and Isabella because they were deeply in debt after a series of costly military campaigns. (For the weddings of two of their children in 1495, Isabella had to redeem her crown of gold and diamonds which had been pledged to raise money for the war against Granada.) And fortunes were made for entire families of bankers because they had received trading concessions in return for loans to popes or kings - the Medici wealth was based on monopolistic access to alum, vital for dyeing cloth. You could also make a fortune by having access to the right piece of information - for example, if you knew that two great houses were planning a wedding, you could stock up on fine fabrics while they were relatively cheap.

I think that since this book was published in 1996, its thesis has become much more widely accepted. But even so, Jardine finds some eye-catching links between things - consumption and discovery - and broad historical changes. The rebuilding of St Peter's Church in Rome, involving some of the greatest artists of the day including Michelangelo and Raphael, was so expensive that Pope Leo X issued a particularly grandiose indulgence, granting remission not just from sins already committed, but "purchasers and their relatives were forgiven every conceivable sin they had committed, or might commit, and exempted from all suffering in Purgatory, advancing immediately to Heaven". The indulgences were sold particularly hard in Germany, because the papacy had agreed that half the proceeds would go to paying off the debts of the Archbishop of Mainz. It was after the issue of this particular indulgence that Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg.

This is definitely a macro-history, ranging across the European continent from Scotland to the Ottoman Empire and in time across a couple of centuries. I am not sure that there was a coherent argument running all the way through it - it's more of a bag of delights, studded with interesting facts that you feel Jardine couldn't bring herself to leave out. I particularly liked the story of a map which deliberately placed the Molucca islands in the wrong place to back up Spain's territorial claim to them - and the related treaty stated that "during the time of this contract, {the Moluccas} shall be regarded as situated in such place" as shown on the map. Even that was only a bargaining chip - as soon as the claim was established the Spanish relinquished them in exchange for cash - "far more valuable to Charles, beset, in established Hapsburg fashion, by enormous debts to his bankers, than monopoly trading rights on the far side of the world". ( )
3 rösta wandering_star | Jan 21, 2011 |
A very engaging and enjoyable read. Jardine discusses the rise of Renaissance art and humanist expertise in pragmatic terms. Expensive art was only possible thanks to changes in the economy - merchants were very wealthy, and thanks to new systems of banking and credit, they could afford expensive art. They bought art not just because it was pretty, but because it said something to everyone else about their civic worth, intelligence, wealth, and prestige. ( )
  Gwendydd | May 9, 2008 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but perhaps predictably I enjoyed most of all the discussion of the book trade. I therefore went immediately to Five Hundred Years of Printing.
  messpots | Nov 7, 2007 |
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In London, as in every other European capital, springtime heralds the arrival of its cultural pilgrims, who throng Trafalgar Square and is surroundings, following trails well laid by the international tourist industry to lead us to the supposed roots of our Western intellectual and artistic heritage.
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"Fascinating . . . Jardine's attention to the material side of things is an important explanatory complement to the many histories of the period that have dwelt on the sublime works of art . . . Real history is in the details, the small stories, of which WORLDLY GOODS is a treasure house." Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

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