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Dating marriage and family during the renaissance

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Arranging a Dating marriage and family during the renaissance match involved family, friends, associates, and political allies. In aristocratic families, marriages were a currency of dynastic and diplomatic exchange as in the case of Bianca Maria Sforza —and they were not much different among the merchant families of republican cities. Marriage not only reflected order, it was a civilizing influence on which the whole of society depended.

Brides, especially in Florence, were typically much younger than grooms. The age disparity had a number of consequences. Young men were more or less free to visit prostitutes, who were semi-sanctioned in certain outlying districts. Relations between male youths and older men were regarded as fairly routine, particularly in humanist circles, in which ancient Greece provided a respected model.

And, of course, the large number of very young brides corresponded to a large number of widows. Instead, widows returned to the control of their own families, who now had to reassume their support or scramble to arrange a second dowry sufficient to attract another marriage proposal. Marriage customs varied somewhat from one city to another; this account is based primarily on the many descriptions of weddings that survive from Florence, but it reflects general practices elsewhere in Italy.

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Beforewhen reforms enacted by the Council of Trent systematized and formalized the process, the only requirement for marriage was the mutual consent of a man and woman not already married to someone else. Priests, ceremonies, and even witnesses were unnecessary. That did not mean, however, that weddings lacked elaborate ritual. Nor did it imply that couples chose their partners themselves.

A likely match was identified many years before a wedding, perhaps suggested by a broker or influential family connection. Negotiations between two families were sometimes sealed until the bride reached puberty and a suitable dowry could be amassed.

Marriage and Family in the...

Dowries, which consisted of goods such as clothing and jewelry as well as money or property, were among the greatest financial obligations that families with female children faced. Parents hoping to elevate their status paid large sums to place their daughters in advantageous unions, but even marriages among social equals required substantial investment.

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In Florence, a special public fund supported by an annual tax provided dowries for orphaned girls. Wealthy individuals also gave dowries for poor girls as acts of pious charity. His visit was followed by a larger gathering of relatives from both families—males only—during which the final terms of the match were hammered out: The arrangements were made public, giving outside parties a chance to raise objections.

At this juncture, the bride herself was finally, albeit briefly, involved.

During the ring ceremony anellamentowhich took place at her home, male and female relatives from both families looked on as she received a ring from her husband to be.

A celebration followed, with more gifts and a festive meal. In Rome, but not in Florence, the bridal couple normally stopped in church to attend a mass along the way.

Roman brides proceeded astride a white horse, wearing belts their fathers had put around their waists to emphasize their chastity. The wedding depicted on this panel, which was once part of a wedding chest, is that of the biblical Esther, but the action has been translated in time and place to fifteenth-century Florence.

Arranging a suitable match involved...

These elaborate and very public festivities helped defuse any lingering dissatisfaction on the part of the two families whose interests were now joined disputes over dowry amounts, for example or any others who might have felt unfairly treated during marriage negotiations.

Such resentment must have been somewhat common, given that a statute enacted in Florence prohibited onlookers from throwing stones or garbage at a wedding procession. Public display encouraged lavish spending and at various times it prompted sumptuary laws designed to hold such spending in check.

It also helped create a vogue for specially prepared marriage chests. Usually called cassoni today but known as forzieri in Renaissance Florencethe chests were used to transport the wedding goods—dowry and groom gifts—during the wedding procession and to store them once the bride and groom had settled into their new home. Long and horizontal, Dating marriage and family during the renaissance cassone panels but a bit larger, spalliere were set over chests, beds, or other Dating marriage and family during the renaissance, appearing something like backrests.

Eventually they were incorporated into the wainscoting. Probably one reason they grew more popular than the painted cassoni was that the wall-mounted panels could be seen more easily. Between the s and aboutmost cassoni had painted decoration. Few cassoni survive intact; their various panels have been separated and are almost always displayed as individual easel paintings now.

After aboutmost cassoni were decorated with heavy wood carving or intarsia instead of painted scenes. The subjects once painted on the chests moved to the walls. Florentine, first half of 16th century Cassone made for Strozzi family Walnut and poplar, The Trebizond cassone was long thought to have been a rare intact survivor, but conservation work has revealed that it was reconstructed and is not in its original state; still, it gives an indication of how the chest would have looked during the sixteenth century.

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Such carving was often highlighted with gilding. Both cassoni and spalliere offered spaces for families and artists to explore themes related to love and marriage. Most common were scenes of conquests and triumphs, episodes with suitable moral messages about the duties of husbands and wives from myth and the Bible, Dating marriage and family during the renaissance imagery taken from OvidPetrarchBoccaccioand other ancient or Renaissance authors.

The values celebrated in these paintings—in the decoration of almost all objects made for weddings and newly formed households—were those most desired in the bride herself: Although a husband and wife would have had little opportunity to know each other before their wedding, most marriages seem to have developed into companionable, if not loving, relationships.

Wives had few individual rights, but many exercised considerable power within the family and household.

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Business took many husbands away for extended periods, necessitating that their spouses play an active role in family affairs.

Leon Battista Albertia humanist and architect who also wrote a manual Dating marriage and family during the renaissance family life, signaled that wedding chests were not to be counted as ordinary storage. He teased wives about their appropriate use:. Dear wife, if you put into your marriage chest not only your silken gowns and gold and valuable jewelry, but also the flax to be spun and the little pot of oil, too, and finally the chick, and then locked the whole thing securely with your key, tell me, would you think that you had taken good care of everything because everything was locked up?

Raphael Bindo Altovitic. The other picture is quite different. Raphael painted his friend, wealthy Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti, in an almost theatrical pose.

He turns to fix the eye of the viewer, and Bindo perhaps intended his portrait to connect with one viewer in particular: Bindo and Fiammetta, the daughter of a prominent Florentine family, were married inwhen Bindo would have been about twenty years old.

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It remained in the Altoviti family for nearly three hundred years. We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.