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

By Susan Mosher Stuard | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Marketmakers

Italian banking and long-distance trade had developed hand in glove in Europe, so a prominent role for banks and currency handlers in marketing luxury goods in Italian towns was an extension of earlier joint enterprises conducted farther afield. Notwithstanding, the banker’s bench or the money changer’s stall as a spot for selling silver, gold, and jeweled wares has earned little comment until recently in the scholarly literature. This small bypath on the road to building complex financial networks warrants some attention, however, since it reveals a different facet of retailing, one that helps explain how precious metals and jewels came to be viewed as repositories of value, even at times as means of exchange in lieu of currency. Exploring sales of silver and gilded wares sheds its own rather unexpected light on the bullion famine of the late fourteenth century. In regard to the trade in bullion, supplying city-states was a straightforward endeavor, if risk laden, in contrast to the complexities of encouraging customers to consume bullion in the guise of fabricated goods. It is this latter issue that comes to the fore in the late medieval era when people grew enamored with silver and gold as adornments for themselves and their households. On the supply side, merchant bankers who were bullion traders brought refined ore to mints and could also provide silver and gold to craftsmen, who then fabricated accessories and domestic plate; this was perfectly legal in Italian towns once the proper fees were paid to the mint. More significantly, perhaps, imported precious goods could move directly to bankers’ benches, money changers’ stalls, or other outlets where they were sold directly to customers. This was the case in Venice where, fortunately, adequate documentation affords at least cursory information on this nascent traffic in ready-made luxury goods. On the demand side, in order to suit customers’ preferences, retail bankers and money changers needed a steady supply of fabricated luxury goods, resulting in an unusual sideline to their usual financial services. When demand for luxury goods increased bankers and money changers, who dealt directly with customers possessing discretionary funds for luxuries, were in a position to affect attitudes about what constituted wealth as well as ideas about the liquidity of fabricated wares.

Venice had long served as a point of embarkation for crusading pilgrims, and to attract this influx of foreigners and their funds, money changers began

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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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