Fashion, Tradition, and Innovation in Button Manufacturing in Early Modern Italy
Abstract

Between the 1600s and 1700s, button production in Italy, traditionally oriented to the creation of precious items, was influenced by changes in taste and function that affected clothing and its accessories in the European panorama and pushed consumers toward less grand but more comfortable forms of luxury. After an introduction of this context, this article describes both the consequent increasing interdisciplinarity of Italian button-making—originally centered in the hands of goldsmiths and jewelers—and the geography of new forms of button production on the peninsula. Through several case studies concerning innovations—both in products and processes, especially in glass- and metalworking techniques—the article analyzes the way in which traditional technical skills, directed to the production of precious and long-lasting items, were reinterpreted in order to create a new material object—a button, whose form would change more quickly in this new market.


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