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Not currently on display at the V&A

Box

1500-1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

All four sides are decorated with figure compositions, flanked by pilasters; borders of wreaths and bands. There is a knob handle on the lid, decorated with gadroons and surrounded by a wreath. The casket rests on four flattened ball feet.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wood, covered with gesso, partly gilt.
Brief Description
Italian, 1500-1600, pastiglia decoration
Physical Description
All four sides are decorated with figure compositions, flanked by pilasters; borders of wreaths and bands. There is a knob handle on the lid, decorated with gadroons and surrounded by a wreath. The casket rests on four flattened ball feet.
Dimensions
  • Height: 11.4cm
  • Width: 15.9cm
  • Depth: 10.8cm
Gallery Label
Small display curated by James Yorke, gallery 126, 1984-1985 The decoration of the lid is in a somewhat fragmentary condition, particularly the harpies and “tear drop” patterns on the pinnacles. On the front is the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, on the back “The Rape of Europa”, on the left side the siting of Rome, possibly, by Romulus and Remus (a fragment of beneath the SPQR tablet could be the bird of good omen), and on the right Brutus’ addressing the Roman people. The base has an acanthus mould. While familiar figures like the Venetian soldier and merchant are evident, there are interesting variants. Judging from what remains of its ruff and finely modelled hind legs, the lion looks more naturalistic than that dog-like creature on other boxes from that workshop. Two satyrs underneath the baldachin are derived from Montagna’s print. They are finely detailed, particularly in their goat-legs. To the right of Europa’s lamenting sisters, a familiar group, a church nestles on a tall, curving rock, such as we find in Venetian landscape details, at the end of the fifteenth century. The figures stand on vegetation, much less spikey than on the boxes from the Workshop of the Cardinal Cles casket. (1984-1985)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Captain Henry Boyles Murray.
Object history
Bequest by the late Captain Henry Boyles-Murray.



PASTIGLIA BOXES

Gilt pastiglia boxes were mostly made in Venice and Ferrara from about 1480 until 1550. Pastiglia or pasta is the name given to white lead paste, bound with egg white. This was often scented and described in contemporary inventories as pasta di muschio (musk paste). The pastiglia figures and motifs were shaped with a lead mould and then glued to the gilt surface of the box - hence their frequent recurrence on other boxes. The boxes are decorated with legends of Ancient Rome and the scenes copied from woodcuts such as Jacobus Argentoratensis' Triumph of Caesar (Venice, 1504) or illustrations of Livy's Roman History.

(Label text, circa 2000, from old Medieval & Renaissance Galleries)
Historical context
Comparable objects

See Pastiglia Boxes, hidden treasures of the Italian Renaissance (Cofanetti in Pastiglia), catalogue from the exhibition Pastiglia Boxes: hidden treasures of the Italian Renaissance from the collection of Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome: Lowe Art Museum, Miami, Feb. 13 - April 28, 2002, eg cat. VI, VIII, IX, X, XI
Subject depicted
Bibliographic Reference
Patrick de Winter: "A little-known creation of Renaissance decorative arts: the white lead pastigilia box", Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell' Arte, 14 (1984), pp. 9 - 131. Cat. no. 62
Collection
Accession Number
W.48-1911

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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