Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-Century Italy

By Susan Mosher Stuard | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Shops and Trades

In a fourteenth-century bottega the retail business of the front room gained some leverage over the demands of the back room with its focus on production.1 The old understanding of apotheca, warehouse, or magazine (in sua apotheca vel domo in the statutes of the secondhand clothes dealers of Florence) was largely supplanted by a new apprehension of apotheca as an apothecary shop open for browsing to customers.2 For thirteenth-century Venice it has been argued that patrician merchants and shopkeepers alike served as mere brokers of services to the city’s inhabitants.3 By the fourteenth century, stiff competition for advantageous stalls in the great marketplaces of Venice required reallocation of prime sites by guild officers on a monthly basis as merchants and guildsmen competed for those locations.4 None of these changes was sudden; they represented instead subtle shifts in emphasis from a time-tested focus on production toward a more deft hand at displaying readymade goods in an environment conducive to spending money. Nor was there anything genuinely new in trying to promote sales since peddlers had long since mastered tricks for displaying goods to the public. The peddler’s pole that served as a staff for traveling and then dangled wares before wide-eyed customers needed only to migrate inside for a shop to take on the character of a retail outlet (see plates 10 and 11; fig. 1). Even the shop as display space was not new. By long custom an astute artisan—glover, painter, or hatter—kept some examples on hand to demonstrate skill, while a shop’s masterpiece was always on display to impress customers, even if business consisted entirely of commissions and served a bespoke market (see fig. 8).

Still, the nature of work within some trades changed in response to a greater emphasis on retail sales, although this is not always easily perceived from guild statutes. Martin Warnke argues in The Court Artist that the best way for artists to escape a guild’s stranglehold on creativity was to seek an appointment and stipend at a royal court.5 Perhaps court favor was the best path to take for the most creative and talented artists, but in this century some painters and sculptors gained stature in their fields by forming their own subguilds with statutes adapted to their specific needs for both production and selling. Some painters even sold ready-made works directly to the public. There were five subgroups of painters in Venice: painters of shields, painters

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Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-Century Italy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Desirable Wares 20
  • Chapter 3 - Gravitas and Consumption 56
  • Chapter 4 - Curbing Women’s Excesses 84
  • Chapter 5 - Costs of Luxuries 122
  • Chapter 6 - Shops and Trades 154
  • Chapter 7 - Marketmakers 190
  • Chapter 8 - Conclusion 228
  • Notes 241
  • Bibliography 293
  • Index 321
  • Acknowledgments 331
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