Jasmine Kilburn-Toppin
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Material gifting
Artisanal virtuosity and material memorialisation
in Crafting identities
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Moving from architectural concerns to guild cultures of object exchange and the physical interiors of early modern livery halls, this chapter reconsiders the material gift within London’s guilds, using material cultures, inventories, wills, and books of benefactors. Existing research into the culture of civic gift-giving has focused exclusively upon substantial bequests of money and property by mercantile elites to the ‘great twelve’ livery companies. By contrast, the chapter demonstrates that a rich culture of material gift-giving, hitherto overlooked, also thrived within London’s craft guilds. The chapter uncovers the fundamental importance of material cultures to the articulation and establishment of individual artisanal reputations and collective craft culture; it identifies typologies of donors and gifts, and the anticipated ‘returns’ by the recipient company. A material approach reveals that master artisans and retailers sought to establish civic status, authority, and memory through the presentation of a wide range of artefacts, including paintings, armour, silver plate, textiles, workshop tools, and sculpture, for display and ritual use in the livery hall. Hand-wrought objects from particular master artisans or workshops were understood to be especially valued gifts because they embodied artisanal expertise through their designs, materiality, and technical aspects. Finally, the chapter considers the changing spatial and temporal contexts of gift presentations by citizens, which by the latter half of the sixteenth century were synchronised with the most important ritual events in the civic calendar, and into the built fabric of the City’s livery halls.

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Crafting identities

Artisan culture in London, c. 1550–1640


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