Making money as a shoemaker

Alessia Meneghin traces the business activity of a Florentine shoemaker, Francesco d’Aringo di Corso, in order to show the methods he deployed to sustain his social and political ascent in Quattrocento Florence. Whether motivated by a profound aspiration to promote his and his family’s interests, or simply driven by the intensely felt ambition of joining Florence’s political life, Francesco made use of his wealth in a rational way to achieve a respectable standing. The simple beginnings as a workshop’s apprentice, who would sit all day long, working, at the bischetto – the typical table where all the shoemaker’s tools were stored – were not very different from those of other trainees.  It is only the setting up of a business partnership with a seller of haberdashery items – the merciaio Agnolo di Antonio Lapini – that marked Francesco’s maturity and laid the foundation of a thriving activity. While Francesco agreed on contributing 1/3 of the social capital, Agnolo invested the remaining 2/3, committing to sell the items Francesco and his cousins would produce, in his botteguccia in the Old Market. In essence Agnolo acted as a broker for Francesco’s trademark production: suede- and Moroccan-skin slippers for women. After the end of their partnership in 1442, Francesco opened his own shop, this time selling himself the shoes he manufactured, often applying a generous markup. At this point, his activity took a fortunate turn, witnessing a gradual but steady increase of the business turnover. However, it is only by becoming one of the favourite suppliers of pianelle and scarpette of several female convents in Florence, Pisa and Siena, that Francesco’s enterprise made a real leap forward, projecting him into the world of the well-off. His self-esteem now boosted, he realized that the solid financial position he attained was only one of the requisites for gaining the social recognition he desired; what he now needed was a solid reputation and a good name. The marriage, in 1470, with Nannina Frescobaldi, the daughter of a cadet member of the prominent Florentine family (amongst the most respected in the district of Santo Spirito, where Francesco himself lived), represented his crowning life-time achievement. Since then, Francesco became a man entirely devoted to his family: he evidently wished to raise his offspring to even higher social levels. His political career, from his holding high offices in Santo Spirito several times over, to becoming podestà of Terranova Bracciolini (a borgo in the district of Florence, where he would eventually move on the eve of his death), must be read under this light. (Text A. M.)


Ein Gedanke zu „Making money as a shoemaker“

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert.