1 berretta dinghilterra di grana

Although inventories are first and foremost lists of items, they can also be an entryway into understanding the spatial and geographical aspects of a householder’s daily life. A single folio from the dossier of Bernardo di Giorgio de Bardi, for example, allows readers to look beyond the objects he owned and to learn about the spaces and places familiar to the deceased over the course of his lifetime. As we read through the first folio of Bernardo's household inventory, narrowing down from larger to smaller spaces and then to an individual object, we see that at the time of his death in 1419, Bernardo’s multi-room Florentine home contained a large main salon with a small room, or saletta, adjacent to it and that further on, next to the smaller space, there was a furnished bedroom. Inside the bedroom (which may have resembled the "Peacock Room" now located in the Palazzo Davanzati, as above), was a large footed chest that held several articles of clothing and some household linens. And finally, among these many items, there was a scarlet-colored cap, which the notary described as “of England,” (dinghilterra), meaning that it was either from England or was made in the English style. A few English caps are depicted in a fourteenth-century manuscript now housed at the British Library and visible in the photo array that accompanies this essay.

In the Florentine inventories, topographic adjectives that indicate the provenance or style of individual objects are neither particularly common nor especially rare; being alert to their existence, however, means that readers can come to appreciate how cosmopolitan the town’s inhabitants were in the later Middle Ages, and the role of space and place—both domestic and foreign—in their world-view. Place names, like the ones inscribed on Italian portolan charts, for example, were often used to describe certain kinds of textiles or foreign currencies, with the name of city or region of origin appearing alongside the item. Like Bernardo's English cap, toponyms were used to specify certain kinds of clothing, gems, or other luxury items—French fabrics, Turkish gemstones, Bolognese coins, and other English garments, like cloaks or capes—perhaps to mark an object as especially valuable.

Just as the inventory alerts the reader to the existence of the scarlet-colored English cap, the topographic adjective used to describe also brings attention to the set of nested places in which it was located. Starting with the smallest space, the footed chest, we are able to locate the cap in the chest that was kept in the bedroom, itself situated next to the saletta adjacent to the salon, in the decedent's house in the city of Florence. The spatial imagination then extends one step further to England, the place of origin for the red cap that Bernardo owned, suggesting some connection between the homeowner and the faraway land of England.