Drawing from her earlier and more academic studies, Lisa Jardine approaches the challenge of creating a new history of the Renaissance with remarkable bravura and all the boldness required to deliver a fresh and highly readable story of an age we think we know so well. In Worldly Goods, Jardine argues that while the Renaissance was indeed marked by a flourishing cultural identity, it was the material and commercial spirit of the 15th and 16th centuries that set the tone. Commerce and international trade provided the enormous fortunes that funded artistic production, and luxury goods, including great works of art, became important as means of displaying newly acquired wealth and status. It was an urge to own, a ceaseless quest for new horizons and exotic treasures, that fueled the cultural output of the Renaissance, according to Jardine, and that taste for conspicuous displays of opulence characterizes the Western experience of the arts and culture to this day.
That Worldly Goods succeeds in telling a captivating new story of the Renaissance is testimony to Jardine''s literary and scholarly success at a difficult task. That her book, richly illustrated and well written, makes contemplation of its subject a thrill is testimony of a very good read.
In this provocative and wholly absorbing work, Lisa Jardine offers a radical interpretation of the Renaissance, arguing that the creation of culture during that time was inextricably tied to the creation of wealth-that the expansion of commerce spurred the expansion of thought. As Jardine boldly states, "The seeds of our own exuberant multiculturalism and bravura consumerism were planted in the European Renaissance." While Europe''s royalty and merchants competed with each other to acquire works of art, vicious commercial battles were being fought over who should control the centers for trade around the globe. Jardine encompasses Renaissance culture from its western borders in Christendom to its eastern reaches in the Islamic Ottoman Empire, bringing this opulent epoch to life in all its material splendor and competitive acquisitiveness.
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