18th Century Venice: The Chairmender

Zompini depicts the conzacareghe (chairmender), whose rhyme tells us he comes from Cadore, a town in Belluno, one of the northernmost regions under Venetian rule, bordering on Austria. Cadore was, incidentally, the birthplace of Titian. The chairmender would likely have spent autumn and winter doing his rounds in Venice, while in summer he would work as a lumberjack in the Belluno forests. “Vegno fin da Cadore: el mio mestier / Xe impaggiar, e da niovo far careghe / Naspi, e corli de legno de Salgher.” My translation: “I come from northernmost Cador, / And chairs I mend from door to door; / With wooden tools and willow bows / I’ll put them right so noone knows.” Noone but the cat, that is. It was said of the conzacareghe that when repairing a chair he would lightly impregnate the sedge upholstery stuffing with fish oil, not noticeable to humans but of considerable interest to cats. The cat would duly wreck the chair, thus ensuring fresh work for the chairmender next season.

2 thoughts on “18th Century Venice: The Chairmender

    • Indeed, Don. I note with amusement that Wiki has a long article on planned obsolescence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence. Apparently it started (as we know it today) with a man called Sloan, a US motor car mogul, But they suggest it was an idea he “borrowed from the bicycle industry”. I bet someone could write a lovely thesis on planned obsolescence going even further back than cats and fish oil. I bet Pliny the Elder had something to say about it 🙂

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