• Cassone (wedding chest) with Biblical Scenes
  • c. 1550
  • Unidentified Italian Artisan
  • Italian (probably Roman Workshop)
  • carved walnut with gilt embellishment
  • Samuel H. Kress Foundation
  • CMA 1959.29

Since Renaissance houses did not have closets, cassone (or chests) were important pieces of furniture in the home of a well-to-do Italian in the 15th and 16th centuries. Walls of Renaissance palaces would be lined with cassone holding household goods, smaller furniture and especially the fine clothes and linens of the lady of the house. It was common for pairs of cassone to be given as part of the bride’s dowry since it was the wife’s duty to keep the house in order. They were often decorated with biblical or mythological scenes promoting love (or obedience) and carved in a style that recalled ancient Roman sarcophagi. The theme of this cassone is entirely biblical. The figures carved on each end are probably the name saints of the bride and groom – St. Helen and St. Clement – with the coat of arms of the groom’s family on the front. To the left of the crest is the story of Helen’s son, the Emperor Constantine, and his battle at the Milvian bridge and his subsequent conversion to Christianity. At the right are scenes from the life of Moses who, like Clement after him, quenched the thirst of his companions by striking water from a rock.

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