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Luxury

Many different goods like typical Indian spices and curries are presented in bags for sale at the weekly flea-market.

Silks from China, incenses from Arabia, spices from India...

From the earliest times, “the Orient” has been identified with sensuality, luxury and decadence. Learn about the sensory pleasures of the trade in luxury goods in Imperial Rome.

An image of the ceiling and balcony inside Haghia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.

City of Wealth and Wonders

In the medieval period, visitors to Constantinople were stunned by its opulence. But its fortunes were built less on its own trading activities than on its skill in exploiting its location to direct, organize and profit from the trade that was carried on by others. The story is uncovered by Jonathan Harris in ‘Two thirds of the wealth of this world’.

A view of Fiji water bottles during the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards on February 27, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.

A Precious Commodity

We think of ‘designer water’ as a twenty-first-century invention but in Early Modern Europe some waters were considered so special that they carried a luxury price tag. David Gentilcore relates how named mineral waters became fashionable luxuries alongside ice, wine, chocolate and coffee.

A Painting of a Tea Party at Lord Harringtons House, St. James

Conspicuous Consumption

In eighteenth-century Europe, rising social mobility and the expansion of world trade meant that items previously considered the preserve of the super-rich became accessible to those with more modest incomes. Discover how the increasing affordability of luxury attire, such as wigs, came into conflict with the sumptuary laws of the period.

A photograph of Castle Hill Mansion on The Crane Estate, 59-room Stuart-style mansion designed by architect David Adler circa 1928, Ipswich, MA.

What is luxury today?

For Dieter Kienast, reflecting on the increased density of urban living, “the garden is the last luxury of our time because it claims what has become rare and valuable in our society: time, devotion and space.” Explore the development of landscape architecture over the twentieth century.