The Domestic Interior in Italy, 1400-1600

Research Project jointly funded by the Getty Grant Program, the AHRB Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior and the Victoria & Albert Museum

The purpose of this project is to explore the urban house in Renaissance Italy as a setting for the development of art and culture, and for the unfolding of everyday life. Looking at the domestic interior provides unique insights into the unprecedented quality and wealth of objects produced for the home at the time - ranging from the artistic to the utilitarian. The evidence available is extensive and offers a complex picture. Contemporary depictions of interiors illustrate a wide range of domestic settings, suggesting geographical, ethnic and social variety alongside aesthetic diversity and development. These sources raise a number of challenging questions about the actual visual and spatial development of the house and its furnishings. Domestic artefacts can also powerfully illustrate the ways the wider cultural, artistic and socio-economic changes we associate with the Renaissance actually affected people's everyday lives. The impressive quantity, range and novelty of objects provided for the home demand examination in relation to new ideas of civility and decorum, and new notions of fashion and taste. Written sources often present the house as an extension of the self, thus provoking enquiry into the relationship between the interior and concepts of identity, gender and the body. As attractive as it is little-known, the Italian domestic interior demands new research and interpretation.

The project, which was launched in September 2002, is to research and develop an exhibition and a book on the Italian domestic interior between c.1400 and c.1600. The exhibition will be held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in 2006 and is likely to travel to another venue. Drawn from the V&A and other collections (including art and design, archaeological and ethnographic museums), this major exhibition aims to explore the Renaissance interior as a powerful site where cultural and aesthetic values were constructed and challenged. A two-year research project jointly funded by the Getty Grant Program, the AHRB and the Victoria & Albert Museum will generate substantial new research by an interdisciplinary team of scholars. The research process will involve a series of symposia and seminars, culminating in a publication to accompany the exhibition. This will provide a permanent record of the project's findings. Both exhibition and book will present an entirely new way of looking at the 'Renaissance' through the development of domestic life and artefacts