Rites of Passage: Arts of Marriage and Childbirth in the Italian Renaissance

During the Renaissance, life’s milestones were marked in celebration and commemoration by the creation of a variety of decorative and functional objects. We will examine the various rites and rituals that took place at times of birth, courtship, and marriage, and the works that serve as records of these events, from deschi da parto, or birth trays, to cassoni, or marriage chests, and a variety of objects exchanged as part of the dowry such as textiles and jewelry. We will look at works in a variety of media as well as the texts that narrate these events in the words of Renaissance men and women, from Alberti’s writings on the family to letters, court records, and inventories. These sources provide insights into the institutions that dominated social life, including the church, the town, and the hospital. Many of the secondary readings come from the fields of social and economic history. Assignments will include short presentations on readings, a short midterm paper and presentation, and a final research paper and presentation. 3 credits. Satisfies the pre-1800 requirement.