Renaissance Florentine Palaces, Costly Signaling, and Lineage Survival

Author(s): Michael Church

Year: 2015


The elites of Florence, Italy built a huge number of palaces during the city state’s period of republican government between 1282 and 1532. Intuitively, these palaces seem like a perfect fit with the predictions of costly signaling theory: they were expensive, highly visible, and vast, and the families that commissioned their construction viewed them as ways of reflecting and producing status. But were these structures costly signals, or did elites spend money on lavish houses simply because they could afford to do so? This research uses the material record of 174 extant palaces built between 1282 and 1532 and demographic and political data extracted from the city’s republic-era election records to evaluate whether palaces are consistent with the predictions of costly signaling theory. My findings indicate that palace owners had more offspring and more political success than their non-palace owning peers, but they obtained these advantages before they commissioned their palaces, not after. In addition, palaces’ fit with the predictions of costly signaling varies over time. My results indicate that costly signaling can operate in complex ways, offer new insight into Florentine elites’ consumer choices, and reveal parallels with modern American decision-making regarding residential real estate and other spending.

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Cite this Record

Renaissance Florentine Palaces, Costly Signaling, and Lineage Survival. Michael Church. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396925)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;