5 October 2006 -
7 January 2007

At Home in Renaissance Italy

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Family Portrait Enlarge image of Family Portrait

Family Portrait
Cesare Vecellio
1550-60, Venice
Oil on canvas
Museo Correr, Musei Civici Veneziani, Venice


Birth, marriage and death were seen as the key moments in the lifecycle. To enhance their importance and ensure their lasting memory, they were marked by ritual practices and specially made objects.

Birth trays and talismans encouraged and aided pregnancy and childbirth, while furniture, ceramics, jewellery and dress legitimised and commemorated marriage. Death involved mostly ephemeral objects, which do not survive, but deceased family members had a continuing presence in the form of painted portraits and portrait busts.

The Renaissance household was often made up of different age groups. Grandparents, unmarried uncles, widowed sisters and adopted children could coexist under the same roof. Boys and girls had a very different upbringing and destiny. Men's lives revolved around their professional achievements, women's around their biological development.