Novelty, Trade and Exchange
in the Renaissance Interior

Research Department

Victoria & Albert Museum, London
24-25 June 2003

During the Renaissance, Italians travelled extensively and individuals often were based in foreign branches of Italian companies. The goods they acquired and brought home helped to establish new fashions and to generate a taste for novelty. The house and its contents reflected and supported 'national' and international trade and exchange: apart from artefacts produced in Italian centres, Flemish tapestries, metalwork and paintings, German stoneware, English pewter, Baltic amber, Spanish pottery and leather goods all featured in the Italian interior. But goods were not only imported from Europe: Islamic carpets, textiles, ceramics, metalwork and other objects, whether purchased or looted, also figured prominently.

This Symposium is the first in a series of events related to 'The Domestic Interior in Italy, 1400-1600', a research project culminating in a major exhibition at the V&A in 2006 and an associated publication. 'Novelty, Trade and Exchange in the Renaissance Interior' will explore the general question of novelty in domestic goods. In addition to examining the stylistic influences of imported wares on local production, and the economics of trade and manufacture, it will focus on the movements of both goods and people across and into Italy.


Tuesday, 24 June
Jean Muir Seminar Room

1.30-2.00 Registration (Lecture Theatre Landing)

Session 1
Chair: Marta Ajmar (Victoria & Albert Museum)

2.00 – 2.30 Patricia Allerston (University of Edinburgh): ‘"Contrary to the truth and also to the semblance of reality"? Alternative Readings of a Venetian Mercantile Family’s Camera del Parto (1605)’

2.30 – 3.00 Isabella Palumbo Fossati (Independent scholar): ‘Opulence and Cosmopolitanism: The Venetian Commoner’s Domestic Interior (1550-1600)’

3.00 – 3.15 Discussion

3.15 – 3.45 Tea

3.45 – 4.15 Gail Geiger (University of Wisconsin-Madison): ‘Racial ‘Exoticism’ in the Decorative Arts’

4.15 – 4.45 Eloy Koldeweij (Netherlands Department for Conservation): ‘Corami d'oro: Did Interiors Glitter? Fashionable Gilt Leather Hangings’

4.45 – 5.30 Discussion
Responent: Sandra Cavallo (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Wednesday, 25 June
Jean Muir Seminar Room

10.00 – 10.15 Registration and coffee (Lecture Theatre Landing)

Session 2
Chair: Reino Liefkes (Victoria & Albert Museum)

10.15 – 10.45 Anna Contadini (School of Oriental and African Studies): ‘The Acquisition and Use of Islamic Artefacts’

10.45 – 11.15 Cinzia Maria Sicca (National Gallery of Art, Washington): ‘From Lucca to London, and Back. The Buonvisi and Gigli Houses from the Fifteenth to the Sixteenth Century’

11.15 – 11.30 Discussion

11.30 – 11.45 Coffee

11.45 – 12.15 Maria Ruvoldt (Cooper-Hewitt Masters Program, New York): ‘Sacred to Secular, East to West: The Renaissance Study and Strategies of Display’

12.15 – 12.45 Paula Nuttal (Independent scholar): ‘Netherlandish Painted Cloths in Italy: Fashion, Form and Function’

12.45 – 1.00 Discussion

1.00 – 2.00 Lunch (Gamble Room)

Session 3
Chair: Flora Dennis (AHRB Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior)

2.00 – 2.30 Deborah Krohn (Bard Graduate Center, New York): ‘Say it with Eels: Towards the Material Culture of Food in Early Modern Italy’

2.30 – 3.00 Anja Grebe (Germanisches Nationalmuseum): ‘Scrittoio and studiolo: On the Early History of Two Types of Furniture’

3.00 – 3.15 Discussion

3.15 – 3.35 Tea

3.35 – 4.05 Rosamond Mack (Independent scholar): ‘The Rising Status of the Oriental Carpet: Contributing Factors’

4.05 – 4.35 Ann Matchette (University of Sussex): ‘Out with the Old, in with the New? Disposing Household Furnishings in Florence’

4.35 – 5.00 Discussion
Respondent: John Styles (Victoria & Albert Museum)


The symposium will take place in the Jean Muir Seminar Room at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The programme will encompass an afternoon of papers on Tuesday, 24th June, and a full day of papers on Wednesday, 25th June. The Jean Muir Seminar room is lo
cated at the top of the landing of the Lecture Theatre (which is off Rooms 66-68 of the Silver Galleries).


Fees: Full price - £40, Student price - £20. Fee includes sandwich lunch (Wednesday), morning coffee and afternoon tea.

Registration is done by prebooking. The deadline for registration is 10 June 2003. Spaces are limited so early booking is essential. Please complete the booking form and send along with a cheque made out to Royal College of Art to: AHRB Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior, Royal College of Art Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU.

For further information, contact the Centre:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7590 4183; email:

This event is organized by the AHRB Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior (Royal College of Art, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Royal Holloway, University of London).