Masaccio, Desco da parto, ca. 1420. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Public Domain

tavola da nostra donna chon un velo (fol. 78v); grattugia (fol. 77v); mantello rosato da parto con 16 bottoni di perle pichole (fol. 78v); ronzino chosto fiorini xiiim( fol. 78v); spechio dariento dorato e smaltato chon chuori e lettere parigine e 1° paghone dariento (fol. 78v); libro di charte mezane di pechora di Lucidario con lettere chomposte (fol. 79r); libricciolo di mano di Lucha di charte mezane di chavretto della Storia di san Girolamo di 2 quaderna (fol. 79r); libro di fogli reali scrittovi entrovi 30 novelle di messer Giovanni Bochacci (fol. 79r); libriccuoli daltare (fol. 79r)

In 1419, an inventory of all the property of Bernardo di Giorgio de Bardi, a citizen of Florence, was drawn up, offering a rare glimpse into Florentine life in and beyond the city. Spread across many pages, the 1419 inventory shows lists of goods derived from not one but rather three different locations: the first from a house in Florence and the following two from, respectively, San Zanobi a Casignano and Mugnana, as seen on the map below.

In Florentine inventories, objects were usually described in situ. This means that the inventories of the Magistrato dei Pupilli in the Archivio di Stato of Florence are also valuable sources on the use of different rooms in residential buildings of the time. The 1419 inventory for Bernardo di Giorgio de Bardi is no exception to this.

Bardi map.jpg

Locales mentioned in the inventory of Bernardo di Giorgio de Bardi

Through the minute description of De Bardi’s possessions, it is possible to retrace and imagine – although not exhaustively – an itinerary from one room to another in the various residences. This inventory suggests, for instance, that the residences in Florence and San Zanobi a Casignano each had two floors (see, for example, the ground floor or sala terrena, at f.78r for Florence and the upper floor or sala di sopra, at f. 79v for San Zanobi a Casignano).

As is often the case with inventories comprising several properties, Bernardo di Giorgio’s inventory starts with his main residence in Florence (on f. 77v). The list of objects includes everyday household items such as kitchen utensils–a great cauldron, a number of pans, a grater, several tripods, and fifteen tin bowls, among other things–along with home textiles and other household items (lanterns, tabletops and trestles) as well as personal items such as clothing, jewelry, and even an “English beret” dyed in red. One other particularly luxurious item is a silver-gilt mirror with enameled hearts and “Parisian letters” (f. 78v).

Interesting to mention is that Bernardo di Giorgio’s house also contained a range of objects associated with childbirth. For example, a birthing tray (deschetto da parto, f. 78r) - a plate painted with scenes to commemorate a child's birth - is among the items in a lady's chamber, along with four “birth mantles” (mantili da parto, f. 78r) which may be understood as special headdresses worn after a woman gave birth.

In the same room, the inventory mentions some books (f. 79r). Classic literary works are not present, but we can find a compilation (lucidario) and a partial version of the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (30 novelle di messer Giovanni Bochacci). This particular book list was mentioned by Christian Bec and Vittore Branca in their studies on the ownership and circulation of books in Florence and the manuscript tradition of Boccaccio. In addition, the inventory also makes mention of many other objects that were particularly associated with male household members. For example, we find in the Florence residence weapons including two crossbows (balestre) and a two-handed sword (spada a due mani, f. 78r). Bernardo di Giorgio’s Florentine residence was more than just a building, because the inventory also mentions a stable which housed a horse valued at 13 florins (ronzino chosto fiorini xiii, 78r).

Traveling must have been important to Bernardo di Giorgio, because the 1419 inventory also lists two other properties in the countryside, which belonged to him (starting on folio 79 recto). Instead of the furnishings of a city house, we now see objects more appropriate to a country home. Bernardo di Giorgio’s second house was located in the vicinity of the church of San Zanobi a Casignano, just over 6 miles southwest of Florence. Even though this house was not as grand or luxurious as Bernardo di Giorgio’s residence in Florence, the house in San Zanobi a Casignano was made up of several rooms and even a courtyard. All spaces were furnished with basic, functional furniture and equipment. As the inventory shows, these rooms were filled with mostly household items and other tools meant for productions of various kinds. For example, we find bags made of canvas, many kitchen utensils, and foodstuffs, including sacks of grain and containers for oil. Finally, there were also items like candle holders and beds, which suggests that the house was occupied and used during the night too. Given the sparse furnishings of this house, we may assume that this property was never lived in by Bernardo di Giorgio and his family but rather by workers or farmers who worked for the family or who leased the property. Of particular interest is that the inventory also records the presence of many farm animals outside the house at San Zanobi a Casignano, including 45 lambs (45 angnelli, f. 79v), a pair of oxen, a goat, and 56 sheep, as well as a dovecote and cages for other types of birds.

Finally, the inventory tells us that Bernardi di Giorgio also owned a piece of land in Mugnana, a locale about 20 miles southeast to San Zanobi a Casignano and Florence. According to the inventory, there was no house or other building there with moveable goods, but again we find a fairly significant number of farm animals, including 32 sheep, four pigs, and two goats.

Even though Florence was a city protected from the outside world by walls and impressive gates, the daily life of its citizens would have been in constant dialogue with what happened beyond the city walls. The inventory of Bernardo di Giorgio de Bardi’s assets provides us with a good example of how even a well-to-do Florentine citizen, who would normally live in their palazzo inside the city, would have been in direct contact with the surrounding countryside. Whether it was for travel or food production, Bernardo di Giorgio would have been constantly reminded of the importance of his other possessions for his Florentine life.