Despite the recent interests of ecomic and art historians in the workings of the market, we still kw remarkably little about the everyday context for the exchange of objects and the meaning of demand in the lives of individuals in the Renaissance. Nor do we have much sense of the relationship between the creation and purchase of works of art and the production, buying and selling of other types of objects in Italy in the period. The material Renaissance addresses these issues of ecomic and social life. It develops the analysis of demand, supply and exchange first proposed by Richard Goldthwaite in his ground-breaking Wealth and the demand for art in Renaissance Italy, and expands our understanding of the particularities of exchange in this consumer-led period. Considering food, clothing and every-day furnishings, as well as books, goldsmiths' work, altarpieces and other luxury goods, the book draws on contemporary archival material to explore pricing, to investigate production from the point of view of demand, and to look at networks of exchange that relied t only on money but also on credit, payment in kind and gift giving. The material Renaissance establishes the dynamic social character of exchange. It demonstrates that the cost of goods, including the price of the most basic items, was largely contingent upon on the relationship between buyer and seller, shows that communities actively sought new goods and vel means of production long before Colbert encouraged such industrial enterprise in France and reveals the wide ownership of objects, even among the ecomically disadvantaged.
Michelle O'Malley is Director of Research in the School of Humanities at the University of Sussex. Evelyn Welch is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London