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To have and have not: the disposal of household furnishings in Florence

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Scholars of the early modern period have increasingly stressed the importance of domestic interiors as a material manifestation of family memory. Rather than simply spaces that were furnished anew, interiors have been seen as the result of an accretive process in which successive generations retained heirlooms and carefully incorporated new furnishings. However, this model does not take into sufficient account that domestic spaces were also disassembled and their objects dispersed. This essay readdresses the assumption that people were overwhelmingly acquisitive. It begins by suggesting that evidence for the disposal of goods has been overlooked in texts already well known, such as prescriptive writings, because previous scholars have thought primarily in terms of accumulation and display. It then turns to a series of examples that reveal disposal in practice, considering the furnishings themselves and the motivations behind their resale and recirculation. A thriving market for used goods offered the owners of domestic objects a certain amount of flexibility and security, and ultimately facilitated the flow of furnishings from one interior to another.
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Keywords: Ownership; Possessions; auctions; household goods; resale

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Victoria and Albert Museum

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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