Material Memories

By Marius Kwint; Christopher Breward et al. | Go to book overview

three
Toys for Girls: Objects, Women
and Memory in the
Renaissance Household
Marta Ajmar

The domestic space plays a pivotal role in the study of the relationship between people, objects and memory. In recent years the many symbolic values attached to the home as the locus which reflects and moulds the cultural identity of its inhabitants have been systematically explored. For the modern period, these questions have been addressed by historians working within various disciplines, including social and economic history, cultural history, art history, design history and cultural studies. But the awareness of the symbolic meanings associated with the domestic space in the Renaissance is only now beginning to dawn among historians, as part of a newly developed interest in the study of consumption. To date, these issues have not yet moved to the forefront of Renaissance studies.1

Renaissance feminist historians have been leading the way in this subject area. In the house, they argue, women can be best observed in their daily negotiations over sexual power. Their interest, however, focuses on the domestic interior mainly as the background against which gender politics materialize and are consummated. Although this approach has proved extremely profitable for the study of women's (and men's) history, it tends to assign a secondary role to the material

____________________
1
A first, empirically-minded opportunity for the discussion of some of these issues was provided by the conference Bringing the Renaissance Home: Domestic Arts and Design in Italy, c. 1400–1600 (Cooper Hewitt, New York, March 1997).

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