Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200-1500

Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200-1500

Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200-1500

Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200-1500


Although the luxurious spending habits of Italians in the Renaissance are well known, this is the first comprehensive study of the sumptuary laws that attempted to regulate the consumption of luxuries. Catherine Kovesi Killerby provides a chronological, geographical, and thematic survey of more than three hundred laws enacted in over forty cities throughout Italy, and sets them in their social context.


There was rude simplicity of old …


The commercial revolution which Italy underwent from the twelfth century onwards brought wealth to many and created an economic momentum which continued into the following centuries. It also brought an enormous variety of new luxury goods onto the Italian markets, goods that were not only redistributed for profit abroad but were enthusiastically consumed, and soon produced, in Italy itself. So marked was this luxury consumption, both in comparison to what had gone before and to levels elsewhere in Europe at the time, that it has been suggested that ‘modern consumer society, with its insatiable consumption setting the pace for the production of more objects and changes in style, had its first stirrings, if not its birth, in the habits of spending that possessed the Italians in the Renaissance’. Paradoxically, however, in the literature of these centuries of prosperity there is a persistent refrain that is suffused with nostalgia for a lost golden age of simple virtue, the ‘buon tempo antico’, and which condemns the new luxury and the effete habits of modern times. Thus Riccobaldo da Ferrara describes in favourable terms an Italy under the Emperor Frederick as having ‘coarse and rustic customs and usages’ while ‘now many dissolute habits have stifled these early customs, many indeed which lead to the destruction of the soul. Parsimony has been changed into extravagance.’ Similarly, Dante’s forefather Cacciaguida condemns the excesses of Dante’s city and describes the Florence of his own day as ‘sober and modest’. a few decades later, Franco Sacchetti deplored the rapidity with which the fashions throughout Italy altered, again contrasting it with the stability of previous years. Such idealizations of the past are common to many societies undergoing rapid

R. Goldthwaite, ‘The Economy of Renaissance Italy: the Preconditions for Luxury Consumption’, I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance, 2 (1987), 16.

For a more detailed discussion of this issue see C. T. Davis, ‘Il buon tempo antico’, in N. Rubinstein (ed.), Florentine Studies: Politics and Society in Renaissance Florence (London, 1968), 45–69, and P. J. Jones, ‘La storia economica dalla caduta dell’impero romano al secolo XIV’, in Storia d’Italia, 20170119batch.html 20170119batch.xml 20170119batchaudit 20170123.html 20170123.xml 20170123audit 20170125.html 20170125.txt 20170125audit 20170126.html 20170126.xml 20170126audit 20170127.txt 20170130.html 20170130.xml 20170130audit 20170214.html 20170214.xml 20170214audit 20170216.txt 20170217.html 20170217.xml 20170217audit 20170220.html 20170220.xml 20170220audit 20170221.html 20170221.txt 20170221.xml 20170221audit 20170224.html 20170224.xml 20170224audit 20170228.html 20170228.xml 20170228audit 20170322.html 20170322.xml 20170322audit 20170324.html 20170324.txt 20170324.xml 20170324audit 20170330.html 20170330.txt 20170330.xml 20170330audit 20170406.html 20170406.xml 20170406audit 20170407.html 20170407.xml 20170407audit 20170411.html 20170411.xml 20170411audit 20170411b.html 20170411b.xml 20170411baudit 20170413.html 20170413.txt 20170413.xml 20170413audit 20170417.txt 20170417.xml 20170418.html 20170418.xml 20170418audit 20170420.html 20170420.xml 20170420audit 20170421.html 20170421.xml 20170421audit 20170424.html 20170424.txt 20170424.xml 20170424audit 20170509.txt 20170509.xml 20170510.html 20170510.xml 20170510audit 20170517.txt 20170517.xml 20170519.html 20170519.xml 20170519audit 20170522.html 20170522.xml 20170522audit 20170523.html 20170523.xml 20170523audit 20170524.html 20170524.xml 20170524audit 20170525.html 20170525.xml 20170525audit 20170531.html 20170531.sql 20170531.xml 20170601.txt 20170601.xml (Turin, 1974), 1777–84.

A. Masséra, ‘Dante e Riccobaldo’, Bollettino della società dantesca italiana, ns 22 (1915), 168–200.

Paradiso, xv. 97–129.

Il trecentonovelle, ed. A. Lanza (Florence, 1984), novella 178, pp. 402–3.

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