5 October 2006 -
7 January 2007

At Home in Renaissance Italy

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Corset Enlarge image of the Corset

mid-16th century, Italy
Museo Stibbert, Florence

Rituals of the Body

The camera was the room where people washed, groomed, dressed and undressed. In the wealthiest households more specific spaces such as the bathroom began to emerge during this period, but most families relied on equipment kept in the camera.

Clothing, towels, ewers and basins were mostly stored in chests or in a new item of furniture, the wardrobe. Lavatories, often situated in areas close to the camera, were common, but people mostly used chamber pots.

Both men and women used artificial aids to alter their appearance, including make up and dyes for their beards and hair. They wore structured doublets and metal corsets to shape their bodies in accordance with contemporary ideas of deportment and fashion.

"Nobody should undress, particularly take off his hose in public, that is, where honest company is gathered. Nor is it desirable to comb one's hair and wash one's hands among other people, since these are things to be done in the camera, and not in the open."

From a book of manners
(Giovanni Della Casa, Galateo, 1558)