"Le goût pour l'Orient" : demande cosmopolite et objets de luxe à Bruges à la fin du Moyen Âge
Faculty of Arts. History
Histoire urbaine. - Paris
, p. 21-40
University of Antwerp
More than just carpets ? The consumption of oriental goods in the late medieval Low Countries Even a superficial analysis of Early Netherlandish painting reveals the striking presence of oriental goods. Painters such as Jan Van Eyck, Hans Memling and Gerard David show eastern ceramics, textiles and carpets associated with domestic bourgeois or noble scenes and most of all with religious themes involving the Virgin. Yet a closer scrutiny already demonstrates a much more nuanced picture. Eastern commodities are particularly present in works of art manufactured in Bruges from the second quarter of the 15th until the first quarter of the 16th century, while they become rare or are even completely absent from those made in other art centres of the Low Countries (Ghent, Brussels, Tournai). Is this phenomenon mere coincidence, or does the cosmopolitan world of international merchants in a commercial metropolis like Bruges trigger differentiated patterns of luxury consumption ? It also raises questions regarding the process of innovation, communication and consumer taste in this densely urbanized region. In this paper, luxury consumption will be analysed through the ducal and other household accounts and through inventories of the estates of noble, merchant and bourgeois consumers in the 15th century Low Countries. Particular attention will be paid to the presence, the relative importance and the diffusion of oriental goods across social boundaries, but also to their geographical diffusion within the urban network.