Dating courtship marriage italy
In the Italian Renaissance, as now, lovers exchanged gifts.
The physical embodiment of desire, these objects often display literary or symbolic representations of the pursuit or attainment of the lover.
Couched in the ancient metaphor of the phoenix, the mythical bird that burns yet emerges unscathed from the embers, the explicit language of desire winds along the length of a woven belt: I WILL SMOULDER EVEN AS A PHOENIX/ WITH THE FIRE OF YOUR KISSES,/ AND I WILL DIE.
Belts or girdles (17.190.963) were associated with fertility as well as marriage, since the touch of a particular relic of the Virgin‘s girdle was said to aid women in childbirth.
The front of a niello plaque that cinched this belt features a profile portrait of an amorous couple, the woman’s arm provocatively encircling the shoulders of her lover.
The woman wears a head brooch and a pearl necklace, both characteristic bridal ornaments; a lady holding a carnation, traditional symbol of love, betrothal, and marriage, is on the reverse.
Mentioned in literary and documentary contexts, belts had a practical function as well, and were probably worn by women high above the waist with the weighted ends dangling suggestively. The notion of “sweet suffering” was diffused through sources such as the Canzoniere of Petrarch, which provided rich descriptive vocabulary such as this from the sixty-first sonnet: Oh blessèd be the day, the month, the year, the season and the time, the hour, the instant, the gracious countryside, the place where I was struck by those two lovely eyes that bound me; and blessèd be the first sweet agony I felt when I found myself bound to Love, the bow and all the arrows that have pierced me, the wounds that reach the bottom of my heart.
Here, the poet praises the moment when he first saw the eyes of his beloved but elusive Laura, and was bound to her by love, which led to his heart’s being pierced by wounding arrows.