Casket

ca. 1390-1420 (made)
Casket thumbnail 1
Casket thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This octagonal casket is made in North Italy (Florence) in about 1390-1420. The sides of the casket are decorated with representations of the Virtues.
It is almost certain that the casket is a modern confection, made using real fragments of Embriachi work set onto a new carcase. The Virtues, although common on Embriachi caskets, always appear on the lids; this is the only known example where they form the main decoration for the side. So the Virtues probably come from the lid of an octagonal casket, which may also have incorporated the winged amorini.
Most octagonal Embriachi caskets with the Virtues depict the three Theological Virtues along the four Cardinal Virtues, and fill the final face with a heraldic shield. In this case, however, an extra personification has been added, holding a globe-like object.

The Embriachi workshop was a north Italian family of entrepreneurs and carvers. The precise location of the workshop is unknown, except that it originated in Florence and in ca. 1431 there was apparently a workshop in Venice, in the area of S Luca. They employed local workers specialising in 'certosina' (inlay of stained woods, bone and horn), and the workshop produced items carved in bone (usually horse or ox) with wood and bone marquetry. As well as altarpieces, the workshop also made caskets as bridal gifts to hold jewels or documents, and these were often decorated with scenes from mythology.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Bone, horn and intarsia on a core of poplar.
Brief Description
Casket, bone, horn and intarsia on a core of poplar, ocatagonal with Virtues, North Italy (Florence), ca. 1390-1420 with late nineteenth-century alterations; carcase late nineteenth-century
Physical Description
This octagonal casket is of very unusual form. The sides are covered with bone veneer stained green. On each face, a square frame is formed from applied geometrical intarsia in alternating patterns of a running ribbon and interlocking six-pointed stars. The latter is formed from two thin strips of intarsia placed next to each other. Within these frames are bone quatrefoils made of three sections, each with a carved Virtue in the centre. The lid is almost flat with a single step, with a band of naked winged amorini against a background of rose leaves, holding hearts, pointing and grasping at one another. On the side facing the lock, two of the angels support each an escutcheon. The casket is raised on small bone feet set at each angle. Starting at the lock hole (the front), and reading from left to right, the Virtues depicted are: Faith, Charity, Hope, Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Strength and a female figure holding a rod with a large globe or ball on it, with a band across the centre. In the centre of the lid is an inlaid star pattern.
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.4cm
  • Diameter: 33cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'F. A. White Esq.'
  • 'Bo.t of Sig.r Costantini, Florence 1903. Octagonal box or casket with bone carved work. Similar ones are at the South Kensington and British Museums. At the latter, they are described as made in the workshop of the Embriaco family, Venice. End of XIVth Cent.y. Frederick Anthony White. 170 Queen's Gate, London, SW'. (Frederick White, a wealthy cement manufacturer and collector, had commissioned Norman Shaw to build his house at 170 Queen's Gate. White assembled an art collection for the house. As a near neighbour, White would have been a regular visitor to the South Kensington Museum, and indeed was one of the benefactors behind the gift to the Museum in 1913 of two Trecento figures from Verona, probably depicting Sts Ambrose and Gregory. The 'Signor Costantini' referred to in White's label is Emilio Costantini, a practising artist and one of the leading dealers in Florence in the years around 1900.)
Object history
Bought in Florence in 1903 from the dealer Emilio Costantini by Frederick Anthony White, Queen's Gate, London. In the collection of Hildburgh, in 1934, when it was placed on loan to the Museum. Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1952.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This octagonal casket is made in North Italy (Florence) in about 1390-1420. The sides of the casket are decorated with representations of the Virtues.

It is almost certain that the casket is a modern confection, made using real fragments of Embriachi work set onto a new carcase. The Virtues, although common on Embriachi caskets, always appear on the lids; this is the only known example where they form the main decoration for the side. So the Virtues probably come from the lid of an octagonal casket, which may also have incorporated the winged amorini.

Most octagonal Embriachi caskets with the Virtues depict the three Theological Virtues along the four Cardinal Virtues, and fill the final face with a heraldic shield. In this case, however, an extra personification has been added, holding a globe-like object.



The Embriachi workshop was a north Italian family of entrepreneurs and carvers. The precise location of the workshop is unknown, except that it originated in Florence and in ca. 1431 there was apparently a workshop in Venice, in the area of S Luca. They employed local workers specialising in 'certosina' (inlay of stained woods, bone and horn), and the workshop produced items carved in bone (usually horse or ox) with wood and bone marquetry. As well as altarpieces, the workshop also made caskets as bridal gifts to hold jewels or documents, and these were often decorated with scenes from mythology.

Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014part II, pp. 830-835
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part II, pp. 830-835, cat. no. 273
Collection
Accession Number
A.26-1952

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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