Lucca – Great Reinassance Merchants

Jan van Eyck - Coniugi Aldobrandini

Great renaissance merchants; not only Florentines… Many Florentine families are famous in history for their important export activities which made them rich during the renaissance era. Less known is the history of those who, around the same time, transformed the little independent town of Lucca into a big important city. In fact, even if they were less popular than their Florentine colleagues, the merchants of Lucca exported to the whole of Europe. Above all, their high quality goods were: silk fabrics, jewels, necklaces, silver and gold objects. They were specialists in luxury. The fabrics made the merchants of Lucca so rich so that they could become bankers and finance the royal and noble houses in the countries to which they were exporting.

The Sbarra family, for example, lent money to the Court of France and the Rapoldi family lent money to the Court of the Flanders. The duke of Burgundy even entrusted Dino Rapoldi the task to collect the taxes and to look after the money. Another banker of the Counts of Burgundy from Lucca was the famous Giovanni Arnolfini who managed to overshadow the fame of the Florentine merchants with his skills; he even let the famous fifteenth century Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck make a portrait of him and his wife Giovanna Cenami in Bruges. The portrait is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of the Flemish art and it’s on display at the National Gallery in London.

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