Old and New

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

A Renaissance Fair is an historian's worst nightmare. Inaccuracies abound. Properly speaking, the Renaissance spans the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries; not that someone woke up on the first of January 1400 and said, Hey, its time for the Renaissance! - there is no clear moment of demarcation, but when I see the buccaneer boots of the Seventeenth Century and the tri-cornered hats of the Eighteenth...

...or the bustled dress (a la Marie Antoinette) at a Renaissance Fair, it strikes me as wrong. Do I spend my time frequenting Renaissance Fairs? I've been to one or two, quite by mistake, but let's just roll with it, as a literary conceit.

There's a wonderful museum in Paris called the Carnavalet that highlights the history of that city, in part through period rooms - rooms that bring together the painting, sculpture, furniture, decorative arts, and interior design of particular historical moments.

You could decorate your home this way - the Louis XV room, the Empire Room, the Belle Epoque Room, etc. - but I wouldn't recommend it; it requires expertise and deep pockets. Best left to the museum curators.

The fun of decorating is not creating the period room but rather making the eclectic room work - like a Renaissance Fair: a relaxed sense of the past in the present; the olden days, or as we say, back in the day, meets today.

There was a guy who used to bag groceries on Lark Street in Albany in eighteenth-century dress. I wonder what his home looked like?

Most of us live in the present - or strive to - and the historical accuracy of our rooms is not an issue. Old stuff is just cool (buccaneer boots, for example) and often sits comfortably with new stuff. An old chest of drawers and a new painting:

I like the way the picture frame echoes the boxy forms of the chest, and the way the dancer echoes the curvilinear forms of the keyholes and drawer pulls. Elegant. And eclectic.