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Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Upper Rhine (or Eastern France, perhaps Alsace, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1420-1450 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood inlaid with ivory, bone, horn and ebony marquetry with gilt-copper fittings and carved with figures

  • Museum number:

    7660-1862

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a casket of bone, ivory, horn and silk, on a wooden carcase, made in the Upper Rhine or Eastern France, perhaps Alsace, in about 1420-1450.
The unique and problematic box is difficult to place. The combination of both high and low quality elements (the lozenge-shaped intarsia work is particularly poor), the mixture of secular and religious imagery, the unusual techniques, and strange elements such as the ivory corbels combine to give the initial impression of an object of dubious authenticity. In its favour, on the other hand, is the likelihood that the forger would not have created such an unusual and original work.

Physical description

Wooden casket overlaid with bone 'alla certosina' with ebony marquetry and gilded metal fittings. Each face of the casket is covered with chequered patterns of bone and horn, and borders of carved strips of pierced bone, held in place by brass nails, with coloured strips of silk beneath. The silk fabrics alternate in colour, between green and a lighter colour, which is either a faded red or yellow. Each long side has two figurative plaques, while the short sides have one. The front of the casket depicts two wild men under elaborate canopies, that on the left shooting an arrow skywards, the other holding a club.
Reading from left to right around the casket, the remaining figurative plaques depict St Catherine, a bearded figure holding a triangular object (tentatively identified by Longhurst as St Philip the Apostle), St Barbara and St Peter. Each of the figures has black dots of applied pigment to indicate their eyes. The borders of each face of the casket have applied plaques representing foliage and flowers. At each of the upper corners is an applied ivory corbel representing the head of a green man. The lid has two decorative plaques of flamboyant tracery designs. The hinges and handles are of copper-gilt. The lock plate has been removed, and the clasp that fitted into it has snapped off. The underside is decorated with plain bone panels and a thick resinous coating. The interior is lined with green velvet, much worn.

Place of Origin

Upper Rhine (or Eastern France, perhaps Alsace, made)

Date

ca. 1420-1450 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Wood inlaid with ivory, bone, horn and ebony marquetry with gilt-copper fittings and carved with figures

Dimensions

Height: 20.6 cm not including handle, Width: 28.7 cm, Depth: 12.6 cm

Object history note

Purchased from John Webb, London in 1862 (for £100); according to William Maskell it was 'said to have been found hidden in a recess of a wall, a few years ago, on the final demolition of a ruined chateau in France' (Maskell 1872, p. 34).

Descriptive line

Casket, bone, ivory, horn and silk on wooden carcase inlaid with ivory and ebony marquetry, depicting figures of saints and wild men, Upper Rhenish or Eastern French (Alsace?), ca. 1420-1450

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1862 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 11
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 69
pp. 33-34
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
part I, pp. 500-503
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part I, pp. 500-503, cat. no. 172

Materials

Wood; Ivory; Ebony; Gold; Metal; Bone; Horn; Copper

Techniques

Inlay; Carving

Categories

Containers; Sculpture; Marquetry

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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