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Cassone

1550-1570 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This cassone (chest) and its pair (4417-1857, also in the V&A), were probably made to celebrate a marriage linking two wealthy families, whose arms are prominently displayed in the centre by naked putti. It is possible that it marked the marriage of Paolo Lancelloti and Giulia Delfini in Rome, in 1570.

Across the front of each cassone are four scenes carved in relief, relating to various episodes from Greek myth. On this cassone are depicted scenes from the story of the god Apollo and Daphne, a nymph with whom the god fell in love. When the unwilling girl could no longer flee from Apollo, she prayed to her father a river god, to save her whereupon she was changed into a laurel tree.

The classical myth, with its themes of love, and the lessons of imprudence and filial duty/parental responsibility, would have been seen as resonant and edifying for a married couple. On the female term figures that separate the scenes, lion masks are strategically placed below their waist, and a fierce mask forms the escutcheon around the keyhole. Both details suggest that a symbolic guard is being placed over the family valuables and reputations.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Walnut, carved and gilded
Brief Description
Walnut, carved and gilded with scenes of Apollo and Daphne, Rome c1570
Physical Description
Chest (cassone) with hinged lid and set on lion feet; the front and sides with high-relief carvings against gilded backgrounds, which depict scenes from the stories of Apollo and Phaeton, divided by caryatid term figures, centred on a coat of arms supported by two putti. The relief carving is partly gilded.



Design

Left side: youthful term figure bust with breastplate, set on a plinth with scrolling shoulder

Panel with suspended trophy with cuirass, shields and halberd

Naked female winged caryatid at the corner

Panel with Apollo and Daphnae

Naked female caryatid

Panel with Apollo and Cupid

Shield supported by two putti, above a mask

Panel with Apollo and Daphnae turning into a laurel

Naked female caryatid

Panel with Phaeton and Apollo (as a statue)

Naked female winged caryatid at the corner

Right side

Panel with suspended trophy with spears, drum, trumpet and a quiver of arrows

Youthful term figure bust with breastplate, set on a plinth with scrolling shoulder



All the term figures wear bead necklaces (painted) and hair ornament. The rear term figures are youthful busts wearing a breastplate, the head inclined towards the front of the cassone. The frieze has acanthus flanking palmette, above running beads (mostly missing). Under the chest front is a carved, scrolling apron with paired rosettes flanking a bud.



Construction

The various parts are nailed together, with ring hinges holding the lid to the back. The front of the cassone consists of a single deep (about 11cm) board (neatly excavated inside to form a shoulder), and a freize panel butting onto the single deep board. Integral to the deep board are the four relief panels, and the rearmost parts of the shield and supporters, and term figures, (the near shoulder of the end terms). The foremost parts of the term figures are built up with a top layer. The freize panel is carved in the solid with the heads of the term figures and a grotesque, foliate mask escutcheon

The freize panel has been rebacked with a replacement section.

Each end is formed by a single panel, below a separate freize. Integral to the main panel is the carved trophy (in low relief), the body of the rear term figure, and part of the body of the front term angel figure. Integral to the freize is the head of the rear term figure, the head of the front term figure. A bead moulding has been nailed (or glued) to the freize.



The back consists of a deep board above a narrow one (probably glued rather than doweled together), both roughly finished on the outside.



The lid consists of a rectangular frame of half-lapped construction, held on three ring hinges (apparently original). The frame is carved on the front and ends with a fluted fore-edge, and overlapping scale pattern. It is plain along the back. On the frame stands a canted, rectangular frame formed by thick, cyma mouldings (meeting in a mitred joint), carved with superimposed acanthus leaf, on three sides and at the top edge a double cyma leaf moulding. This angled frame contains a flat panel, in the centre of which is an applied roundel with a grotesque foliate mask.



The bottom consists of a single board with moulded ends, nailed up into the sides, back and ends.



Replacement parts: infill patch to back plank (PR end). Lid rebuilt.

PL end consists of a large board over a narrow (where the other ends are made from a single piece)







Dimensions
  • Approx height: 65cm
  • Width: 176cm
  • Depth: 58cm
Gallery Label
Cassone (Chest) Chestnut , partly gilt Italian (probably Roman); 1570 The four panels are as follows (left to right): Apollo meets Daphne; Apollo struck by Amor’s arrow; Daphne transformed into a bay-tree; the fall of Phaeton. The arms in the centre may be those of the Delfini family, and this cassone, together with its pair shown nearby, was probably made for the marriage of Paolo Lancellotti and Guilia Delfini in 1570. (pre-2006)
Object history
Bought for £110 in Paris (No further information given in the early register).

Historical context
See also:

Walnut cassone with scenes of Phaeton, (dims. 65 x 175 x 57cm), Minneapolis Institute of Art, gift of the F.W. Clifford family 59.8.

Pair of walnut cassoni with arms of Rustici and Massimo , ill. in Goffredo Lizzani, Il Mobile Romano (1970), figs. 185-6, 189-90; described in

GONZALEZ-PALACIOS, Alvar (editor), Fasto Romano - dipinti, sculture, arredi dai Palzzi di Roma. (Rome, Palazzo Sacchetti, 1991), no. 64, as by Tuscan craftsmen.



Venetian c1550, carved walnut (Ecouen, Musee Nazionale de la Renaissance, Inv. 20402), illustrated in Patricia Fortini Brown, Private lives in Renaissance Venice : art, architecture, and the family, fig. 112



Berlin K.2465 (destroyed)

Summary
This cassone (chest) and its pair (4417-1857, also in the V&A), were probably made to celebrate a marriage linking two wealthy families, whose arms are prominently displayed in the centre by naked putti. It is possible that it marked the marriage of Paolo Lancelloti and Giulia Delfini in Rome, in 1570.



Across the front of each cassone are four scenes carved in relief, relating to various episodes from Greek myth. On this cassone are depicted scenes from the story of the god Apollo and Daphne, a nymph with whom the god fell in love. When the unwilling girl could no longer flee from Apollo, she prayed to her father a river god, to save her whereupon she was changed into a laurel tree.



The classical myth, with its themes of love, and the lessons of imprudence and filial duty/parental responsibility, would have been seen as resonant and edifying for a married couple. On the female term figures that separate the scenes, lion masks are strategically placed below their waist, and a fierce mask forms the escutcheon around the keyhole. Both details suggest that a symbolic guard is being placed over the family valuables and reputations.

Associated Object
4417-1857 (Ensemble)
Bibliographic References
  • H.Avray Tipping, Italian furniture of the Italian Renaissance as represented at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Country Life March 31st 1917, pp. 3-8
  • LONDON, South Kensington Museum: Intro. John Hungerford Pollen: Ancient and Modern Furniture & Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum. (London, 1874), p.144 “4416. ’57 COFFER. Walnut wood, carved in high relief, and parcel gilt; the front divided by terminal female figures into four compartments, in which are groups in low relief representing Apollo and Daphne, Apollo and Cupid, Phaeton and the chariot of the sun, and other mythological subjects; in the centre is a shield of arms supported by two cupids; on the cover is a raised panel with a lion's head in the centre. Italian. About 1560. H. 2 Ft. 3 in., L. 5 ft. 7 in., W. 1 ft. to in. Bought, 110£. The central shield is supported by two cupids standing out almost in the round or completely detached. The bearing on the shield is, two dolphins endorsed and placed saltirewise. The carving of the figures in the panels represents the mythology of Apollo. Female terminal figures at the angles and half way between the angles and centre divide the front into four sunk panels, in which these legends are sculptured. First comes Apollo wooing Daphne and trying to take her by the arm at his temple. In the next he pursues her, Cupid, flying in front to show the way. In the next Daphne to save herself invokes Tellus, Mother Earth and is changed into a bay tree, with the leaves whereof Apollo makes garlands for himself. In the fourth panel are seen the chariot and horses of the sun, which was overset by Phaeton son of Apollo. The subject is begun in the companion coffer. It is noticeable that these carvings are cut out of one mass or slab of wood not less than three inches thick, which forms the side of the chest. The terminal figures divide the bulging side where the sculpture is, their heads divide a fort of carved border above into narrow panels. There is a row of round beads applied between these and the main panels. The carving is of honeysuckle and volutes in the manner of pilaster caps. The lid comes close on this and is fluted on its edge vertically. The lid has a raised panel with carved acanthus moulding supporting it, and a lion’s mask on the centre, and the fiat round the panel is cut into scales. The bottom framework of the coffer is cut into curves and scrolls, and at the angles has claw feet. On the end panels are trophies of arms. “
  • Frieda Schottmüller, Furniture and Interior Decoration of the Italian Renaissance (Stuttgart, 1928), p.64
  • Paul Schubring, Cassoni; truhen und truhenbilder der italienischen frührenaissance. ein beitrag zur profanmalerei im quattrocento (Leipzig: K.W. Hiersemann, 1915); cat. no. 865, plate CLXXXI
  • 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. “Sarcophagus shaped . The shield is charged with a fess of three lines , of which the middle is wavy. In chief are five descending rays and in base a fleur-de-lis. Winged harpy figures turning into foliage scrolls with masks, are carved on the angles. The bottom is cut into scrolls and rests on claw feet. The plinth is a flat platform with guilloche ornament cut round the edge. The ground of the carved portions is gilt. It is Florentine, and belongs to the middle of the 16th century."
  • Wilhelm von Bode, Italian Renaissance Furniture (originally published as Die Italienischen Hausmöbel der Renaissance, Leipzig 1902) translated by Mary Herrick (New York, 1921). P.78
  • Eric Mercer, The Social History of the Decorative Arts – Furniture 700-1700 (London, 1969), fig. 108
  • Franz Windisch-Graetz, Möbel Europa. 2. Renaissance-Manierismus (Munich, 1982), fig. 59
  • Clive Wainwright, edited for publication by Charlotte Gere, The making of the South Kensington Museum III. Collecting abroad, in Journal of the History of Collections 14 no. 1 (2002) pp.45-61 On p.48 n.9 notes that 4414 to 4417-1857 were purchased in Paris, (apparently by Cole or Robinson).
Collection
Accession Number
4416-1857

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record createdFebruary 5, 2007
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