The Material Renaissance:Costs and Consumption in Italy 1300-1650

"The project explored:
• The comparative prices of different types of goods in Italy over both time and place
• The market for domestic goods such as food and clothing
• The market for objects now considered 'art', particularly panel paintings, metalwork and antiquities

The project aimed to investigate whether the relationship between the marketplace and individual or institutional artistic patronage changed between the 14th and the 17th centuries. We were particularly interested in asking whether art objects were, as is usually assumed, bought and sold in ways that distinguished them from other commodities. In addition we questioned the gendered nature of Renaissance consumption, examining how social communities of buyers and sellers were formed, and exploring the different means by which objects were acquired in courts and republican communities" (from project web site: please see for more details).

Principal investigator
Professor Evelyn Welch
Principal project staff
Dr Evelyn Welch; Dr Patricia Allerston; Dr Suzanne B Butters; Dr Guido Guerzoni; Dr Mary Hollingsworth; Dr Luca Mola; Professor Reinhold C Mueller
Start date
Monday, January 1, 2001
Completion date
Sunday, June 1, 2003
Source material
The database is available for download from the AHDS. "The database aimed to capture three mains kinds of information: * Wages * Exchange rates * Values It was designed to allow those who are interested in networks of buyers, sellers, intermediaries, etc., to keep track of the various individuals they encountered in documents, to help them track the careers of those individuals. Part of the challenge of creating the database has been in respecting the subtleties of the data (imprecise dates, values recorded in combinations of two different moneys at the same time, payments made in cash or in kind or both at the same time, etc.), at the same time as ensuring that data-entry is not onerous, and rigid standards of consistency can be applied to the data as it is entered, in order to prevent incomplete or spurious results being returned from searches. The plethora of different moneys and units of measurement in use in Italy over the period in question are an additional problem. The database has been written in Microsoft Access 97, selected as an easily-available database capable of running under various versions of Windows (and thus on project members' own machines) already in use at the University of Sussex, where the central database was maintained. However, performing the various calculations required in order to reduce different moneys and units of measurement to comparable figures using Access necessitated a fair degree of programming using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) by Dr Rupert Shepherd". (see project web site for more details).

O'Malley, M. and Welch, E. (2007), 'The Material Renaissance', Manchester, Manchester University Press.

O'Malley, M., (2007) 'The Business of Art', New Haven and London, Yale Universiy Press.

Welch, E., (2005).'Shopping in the Renaissance', New Haven and London, Yale University Press.

Hollingsworth, M. (2004) "The Cardinal's Hat", London: Profile Books.

Mueller, R.C. (1997) 'The Venetian Money Market: Banks, panics and the public debt' IN F.C. Lane and R.C. Mueller (eds.) "Money and banking in Medieval and Renaissance Venice, vol. 2", Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press.

Biasin, P. (2002) "L'amministrazione dell'ospedale di Santa Maria dei Battuti di Treviso nel secondo '500 tra crisi e routine", Tesi di laurea: Universita Ca' Foscari di Venezia.