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‘Contrary to the truth and also to the semblance of reality’? Entering a Venetian ‘lying-in’ chamber (1605)

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Significant methodological difficulties are posed by studying the domestic interior. This article advocates the importance of understanding the circumstances in which the evidence on domestic arrangements was generated, as well as its original functions. It suggests that while such knowledge may help us to draw convincing conclusions about domestic interiors, it can also encourage us to exercise caution when forming definitive opinions. The discussion centres on two rare documents of 1605: a denunciation to the Venetian sumptuary officials about excessive display by a merchant's household on an important domestic occasion (a child's birth), and a personal rejoinder, by the merchant in question, refuting that allegation. Both documents appear to offer a valuable insight into a Venetian domestic interior. However, knowledge of the context in which the two documents were produced encourages us to question whether either source takes us into a real domestic interior at all.

Keywords: childbirth; furnishings; merchant; methodology; sumptuary

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: National Galleries of Scotland

Publication date: November 1, 2006


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