Biography of the Object in Late Mediaeval and Renaissance Italy

Olson, Roberta
Date published: 
February 2006

The famous call, made nineteen years ago by Appadurai and Kopytoff, that students of material culture should study the 'social life' of things has, until now, had a limited effect upon students of the Italian Renaissance. The essays in this book - part of the recent burgeoning interest in Italian Renaissance material culture - rise to Appadurai and Kopytoff's challenge, examining the 'lives' led by objects in late-medieval and Renaissance Italy: their creations, lives and subsequent after-lives. Situating objects and their biographies in their cultural, social and economic contexts, the contributors discuss the 'social lives' of a range of objects in late-medieval and Renaissance Italy: maiolica, sculpture, artists' autobiographies, plate for the table, cassoni, glassware, prostitutes' jewellery, miraculous painted images, choir-screens, chapels, and antiquities. An introductory essay discusses the forms of evidence at the disposal of students of material culture and their relationship to the objects whose lives they seem to illuminate.