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  • Place of origin:

    Venice (possibly, made)
    Spain (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut and rosewood inlaid with ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The idea of decorating wood with inlay of bone or ivory in dense patterns originated in the Middle East, and the idea most likely spread through Italy from Venice, the Adriactic port with the strongest links with the Eastern Mediterranean. This type of work has often been referred to as alla certosina and associated with Carthusian monks. In more recent years it has been identified with the term found in 16th-century inventories, casse alla veneziana, or boxes in the Venetian style. This chest once belonged to Jules Soulages (d. 1856) of Toulouse, whose highly important collections of Renaissance items were acquired piecemeal by the South Kensington Museum from the late 1850s and throughout the1860s.

Physical description

Chest of walnut and rosewood inlaid with ivory. The top is inlaid with a chess board, within the lid the sacred monogram appears on either side of a typical Levantine flowerspray springing from a vase. The outside of the chest is inlaid with ivory and coloured woods in geometrical patterns.

Place of Origin

Venice (possibly, made)
Spain (possibly, made)


ca. 1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Walnut and rosewood inlaid with ivory

Marks and inscriptions

Restauré par Ladouse, Père et Fils, Chef d' Atelier de l'Institut des Sourds-
Muets, Toulouse.
Metal label on back of front


Height: 55.8 cm, Length: 115.4 cm, Width: 52 cm

Object history note

Bought (Soulages Collection), £40

Descriptive line

Cassone of walnut and rosewood, inlaid with ivory, Italy or Spain, ca. 1500

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

Victoria & Albert Museum: Fifty Masterpieces of Woodwork (London, 1955), no. 10.

An Inlaid Chest

In the time of the Sultan Sha’ban (A.D. 1363-1377), ivory, ebony and other precious woods were already in frequent use at Cairo, Damascus and elsewhere for the inlaid decoration of tables, Koran-boxes, screens and the like; and with the growth of the Italian wool trade in the Levant such articles of ‘Damascus work’ were often imported by the merchants of great Italian maritime cities. The influence of these importations is clearly perceptible in furniture of the quattrocento made in Italy, notably in objects decorated with the so-called certosina work. This distinctive style of inlay is particularly associated with the Carthusian monasteries (certose) of Lombardy.

Islamic elements are prominent in the ivory inlaid decoration of this walnut and rosewood chest, made in Northern Italy about 1500. The top is inlaid with a chessboard, while within the lid the sacred monogram appears on either side of a typical Levantine flower-spray springing gracefully from a vase. This beautiful chest suggests how splendid were the furnishings of Italian Renaissance palaces at the time when exotic influences were blended with native Italian art, then at the summit of its achievement. The chest, formerly in the Soulages Collection, was bought by the Museum in 1860

Northern Italian (Venetian?); about 1500.
H. 22 in., L. 45 ½ in.

Eric Mercer, The Social History of the Decorative Arts – Furniture 700-1700 (London, 1969), NAL 47.5.59, Figure 131.

London, South Kensington Museum: Ancient and Modern Furniture & Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum, described with an introduction by John Hungerford Pollen (London, 1874), p. 133.

Coffer. Wood, inlaid with marquetry of ivory and coloured woods in geometrical patterns; a chess-board in the centre of the lid. Italian. About 1500. H. 1 ft. 10 in., L. 3 ft. 9 ½ in., W. 1 ft. 8 ½ in. Bought (Soulages Coll.), 40l.
This is of the Certofino character. The chess-board in the middle shows that this chest has been set in the middle of the room and used as a seat or as a table. The panel occupied by the chess-board inlay is effective, as alternate squares always are when mixed with other work, forming a definite and marked contrast to the delicate stars, circles, or wiry foliations of the rest of the work.

J.C.Robinson, Catalogue of the Soulages Collection: being a descriptive inventory of a collection of works of decorative art, formerly in the possession of M. Jules Soulages of Toulouse; now, by permission of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, exhibited to the public at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House (London 1856), Nos. 666, 667, p. 175.

Two coffers in tarsia work.

Labels and date

CHEST (Cassone)
Walnut, inlaid with marquetry of ivory and other woods
ITALIAN; about 1500

(The inlay technique originated in the Near East and was much imitated in Northern Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is sometimes called 'alla certosina' work).
Museum no.7223-1860 [pre October 2000]
CHEST (CASSONE) with inlaid decoration
About 1500

Chests were essential in Renaissance homes. Not only did they store valuables and even jugs of wine, but they also served as seats. This chest in expensively inlaid with ivory and coloured woods, in a special technique that originated in the Middle East. Although described in inventories as 'Venetian style', this decoration was also produced by Islamic craftsmen in Spain.

Italy or Spain

Walnut inlaid with ivory and other woods

Museum no. 7223-1860 [2008]


Rosewood; Ivory; Walnut


Inlay; Joinery


Furniture; Containers; Renaissance (Italian); Medieval and renaissance


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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