Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Bologna (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1360 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    dei Crocifissi, Simone, born 1330 - died 1399 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    tempera & gilt on wood

  • Museum number:

    351-1864

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval and Renaissance, room 50c, case 1

Simone di Filippo called ‘dei Crocefissi’ (active in Bologna between 1355 and 1399) was perhaps a pupil of Vitale da Bologna (before 1309-1359-61). He was the father-in-law of the painter Dalmasio de’ Scannabecchi and was elected a member of the Elderly for the Porta San Procolo district in 1380. Very little is known about his work.

This casket is lavishly decorated with various saints and scenes from the life of St John the Baptist. It is characteristic of Gothic painting done in Bologna around 1350, and it was probably made for a member of the Baisi family of Bologna who was a bishop or priest. The same coat of arms is painted at both ends of the lid, and emblazoned with a bishop’s mitre and crozier, and with the crossed keys of St Peter.

Physical description

Wood; covered with gesso, gilt and painted. On the lid is depicted the birth of St John the Baptist, and the Baptism of Christ on the Front Side, saints and apostles on the front, back and sides of the box. On both ends of the lid is the same coat of arms for a bishop, probably the Baisi family of Bologna (three fishes in pale, with mitre, cross keys and crosier).

The half-length figures of saints (listed left to right):
Front: St Peter, St John the Evangelist, uniidentified, missing figures, St Bartholomew, St Matthew, St Andrew
Back: Luke, Mark, Matthew, John, St Christopher, St Anthony Abbot and St Liberius, a Pope.
Right end: Three unidentified saints
Left end: Three unidentified saints

Place of Origin

Bologna (made)

Date

ca. 1360 (made)

Artist/maker

dei Crocifissi, Simone, born 1330 - died 1399 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

tempera & gilt on wood

Marks and inscriptions

Front lid: S. Johannes Battista
Back lid : S Elizabhet S Maria Mater Dei

Dimensions

Height: 24 cm, Width: 33.5 cm, Depth: 15.5 cm, Weight: 1.6 kg

Object history note

This box was purchased by the South Kensington Museum in 1864 from M. Delange of Paris for £20.

Historical significance: Originally acquired as Florentine, this casket has been attributed to Simone dei Crocefissi by John Pope-Hennessy (oral communication), an attribution supported by Peter Thornton (1984).
Characteristically shaped like a Medieval Italian tomb, this casket shows on a gilded background with eroded pastiglia work the half-length figures of the apostles (St Peter, St John the Evangelist, St Bartholomew, St Matthew) and two unknown saints as well as the four evangelists, St Christopher, St Anthony Abbot and St Liberius. On each ends are three apostles with a coat of arms: three fishes in pale, probably those of the Baisi family of Bologna while the mitre, cross keys and crosier allude to a high clerical charge such as bishop.
Caskets were part of the medieval household to store precious items such as books and papers but may also have had an ecclesiastical use by storing bibles, small liturgical utensils and even reliquaries. The present casket was probably indeed decorated according to an ecclesiastical purpose.
The figures of the saints bear the characteristic features of Simone dei Crocefissi’s output. Many works, preserved in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, can be compared with the present works, especially a Crucifixion of Christ from ca. 1370 (Inv. 286). This Crucifixion displays very similar figures, perhaps more refined, whose features are strongly outlined with a heavy black line.
Its decoration would have made it a rare and much prized item. The owner was most likely from Bologna, a city that had a flourishing school of illuminators and miniaturists, such as Andrea da Bologna (fl. 1370s) and the presumed author of the present decoration Simone dei Crocifissi. At this time and until the High Renaissance, decorating furniture was as much part of an artist’s activity as painting altar-pieces and illuminating manuscripts.

Historical context note

A casket is a very small case or lidded box for storing various objects and were popular from the 4th century AD. Usually made of ivory or wood, caskets were used for storing important books and papers, liturgical utensils and various precious items. They were utilised by both the secular and the ecclesiastic worlds, For example, bible boxes were used by both ecclesiastic and lay owners for storing Bibles. They were particularly common in the Renaissance and made of wood, usually walnut or oak, with either a flat or a slanting hinged lid. Somehow they can be seen as the precursor of the much larger Italian cassone and were most of the time lavishly decorated.

Labels and date

CASKET
Wood, painted gilt gesso
ITALIAN (Bologna?); about 1380
351-1864

On the front of the lid is the Baptism of Christ and on the back the birth of St John the Baptist. At the sides of the lid are the arms of the Baisi family of Bologna. The name of the owner is unknown but the crossed keys and crosier indicate that he was a bishop. On the front and side of the box are half-length apostles and saints. [Pre-2006]

Materials

Gold leaf; Paint; Gesso; Wood

Techniques

Joining; Gilded; Painted

Categories

Containers; Woodwork; Medieval and renaissance

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.

Ajax-loader