The interior designs of the Italian Renaissance, a time period spanning from the 14th century to the 16th century, offers a study in symmetry, colour application and innovative artistry. Buildings and homes constructed during this time are largely based on the designs of ancient Greece and Rome in which symmetry and geometry are the prevalent guiding principles. To complement the precise styling of the architecture, interiors are rich in colour and detail.
Walnut trees are found throughout Italy and the strong wood is used for furniture and cabinetry. Inlay and intricate carvings are typical for furniture, be it a storage cabinet or dining chair for the head of the household. Marble is used as well for tables and these exhibit detailed carvings and inlays. The cassone, a chest of drawers that ranged from small jewellery cases to large, bench-sized pieces, is one of the more notable designs to come out of the Italian Renaissance. The large cassone acts as a dowry chest, in which the bride brings an agreed amount of currency and goods to the marriage; these may be stored in the cassone.
Silk, velvet, linen and wool are used for bedding, upholstery and drapery, as well as for wall hangings. Drapery is ceiling to floor in length and often in a damask or brocade. Tapestries play an important role in interiors not only as visually pleasing works of art, but as a means of telling stories, such as hunts, political events and religious parables. The heavy tapestries may also have served as an insulating element in the large, airy rooms of the wealthy.
The intricately carved furnishings, be they wood or stone, also act as artwork in the Italian Renaissance interior. Human forms, animal imagery, repetition of natural images such as leaves and flowers on a vine, and graphic patterns such as a Greek key are integral to the design of cabinetry, chairs and settees. Along with the stylised furnishings and tapestries, wealthier citizens employed artists to paint frescoes on the plaster walls of the public rooms of their homes. The frescoes, like tapestries, tell stories, inviting visitors to linger and interpret.
Artworks in tapestries, frescoes and framed paintings provide much of the colour in Renaissance interiors, as well as drapery and upholstery textiles. Walls are made from plaster, and not given to hold paint as seen in contemporary times. The interiors, though, are colourful; red, blue and yellow in their primary shades are prominent with purple and green used throughout in darker hues.
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