The Meaning of Oriental Carpets in the Early Modern Domestic Interior: The Case of Lorenzo Lotto's Portrait of a Married Couple
Recent scholarship on the Early Modern domestic interior has brought renewed attention to the social and ideological functions of domestic objects, which grew in number and variety over the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The current study focuses on Turkish carpets, which appeared, along with other Oriental luxury goods, with increasing frequency within the homes of the urban elite during this period. Such carpets were highly valued by merchants and owners as well as by the artists who represented them with exquisite accuracy in their paintings. Through a close reading of the Turkish carpet in Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Married Couple (Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1523-24), this article argues that the display of Turkish carpets within portraits provides evidence of the complex and layered functions of these cherished exotic items. Specifically, representations of Turkish carpets within such portraits operated not only as markers of the economic, social, and intellectual status of the sitters, but also, within the context of the home and family, served a deeply spiritual and commemorative role by honouring the deceased and by acting as mediating objects between the physical and mental realms.
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