Renaissance HOUSEHOLDS

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What was home life like during the 15th Century? Without electricity for heat, light and refrigeration to keep foods fresh, how did the people of the Renaissance live?

Peasants and Labourers

Homes Usually made with wood, earth or stone. Depending on which was more plentiful.
Flooring Packed dirt covered by rushes or tiles
Windows & Doors Usually rectangular holes with wooden shutters or oiled paper to cover them.
Roofing Thatched, wooden or sometimes tiled
Rushes Rushes were laid on the ground and used to mask odors. Made from a mix of hay, herbs and flowers.
Bedding Peasants usually slept on the floor or had beds made of straw. many had thin patchwork blankets to keep them from getting cold.
Bathrooms usually a wooden seat on top of a latrine that was shared by other families.
Kitchens If there was a kitchen you would find a kneading trough for bread, a grain bin, cauldrons, skillets, pots, and shelving for plates, etc. Light and warmth came from the Renaissance kitchen hearths. Some were tall enough for someone to stand in!

Merchant and Burgher Class

Windows & Doors

Royalty and Nobility

Homes The first time in a long time since homes for the wealthy or lords were not made for defense but for pleasure, each family tried to outstrip the other in opulence. The homes were now larger and consisted of more rooms. The Renaissance saw a time when untitled citizens could afford to build their own palaces, seen in the case of Palazzo Medici. The wealthy usually had more than one house. They would have a central palace in the city, but during the summer months when the city was full of plague and stink, they would move to their country villas that spotted the countryside where they grew their own food. These villas also served as commercial enterprises where produce could be raised and sold. The fruits, grains, vegetables and wine produced would be shipped off to the city for the purpose of feeding the family, court, and dependents.
Gardens Gardens of the nobility sometimes enclosed large orchards, shrubs and hedges, such as the formal gardens at the Castello Estense (Este Castle, Ferrara). Its garden contained a "central pavilion surmounted by a gilded statue of Hercules, its lead roof resting on sixteen white marble columns, and a floor of inlaid coloured marble. Gilded bronze lions' heads issued water into a marble basin surrounding the pavilion; four paths leading from it were paved in terracotta and shaded by roses growing on frames of crosses willow. Outside in the garden there were ornamental fruit trees, tall cypresses and jasmine; the walls were lined with vines growing out of borders of rosemary. There was a potager for vegetables and herbs, a flower garden planted with lilies, violas, carnations, white privet and a fishpond. Under a white marble loggia in summer tables would be placed for dining.." (cited by Bradford Lucrezia Borgia p. 167 as found in Gundersheimer, Art and Life at the Court of Ercole d'Este)
Flooring Inlaid stone or marble tile, mosaic, slate, possibly parquet wood
Windows & Doors The Italian princes were constantly fighting with territorial rivals so they had to have secure doors and windows. Windows usually were made of fixed or movable glass with lead used sometimes for framing. Windows had bars or grates for protection on ground floors.
Roofing slate or clay tile
Bathrooms Lucrezia Borgia's private quarters in the Castello Estense (Este Castle, Ferrara) had a luxurious necessarium (washrooms and spa). It had marble steps leading to a marble bath lined with linen where her and her ladies would spend hours in the stove-heated sanctuary. "Barrels of mud and water from spas near Padua at Abano and San Bartolommeo were brought in for health treatments." (Bradford, p. 166)
Kitchens Filled with stoves, wash basins, storage, and utensils. Renaissance palace and castle kitchens were like mini-assembly lines of food storage and preparation. Larger castles and defensive fortresses contained subterranean chambers to store several months or years worth of grain, other food, oil, wine and water.
Bedrooms The Renaissance was the first time in centuries that privacy was respected. In the Middle Ages, even the upper classes lived together in the same bedrooms. The Renaissance saw a rise in the individual bedrooms of the wealthy with a large canopied bed. In the wealthy Italian homes the bed took center stage. Beds made of pine or oak high enough to store things under. Sometimes curtains hung around to keep out cold and mattresses stuffed with soft bird feathers. Rich colorful cloth was used for sheets, pillows and comforters, A bathtub usually was found in the bedroom.

Renaissance Cooks

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Labourers at meal

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Farm Labourers

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Renaissance Palazzo Bedroom

Detail, Birth of the Virgin

Studiolo (gallery room) of Isabella d'Este - previuosly Mantua, now located in the Louvre

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Villa Farnesina (Rome)

Frescoed Salon of the Villa Farnesina

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