Box thumbnail 1
Box thumbnail 2
+4
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Box

ca. 1510 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Gilt-boxes, decorated with scented lead-based paste (pasta di muschio) and illustrated with biblical or classical legends, were popular throughout Italy between about 1470 and 1570. This example includes the stories of David and Goliath and Marcus Curtius, who sacrificed his own life in order to stop an earthquake in Rome, by plunging with his horse into a chasm, which promptly closed up over him and ceased the quake. Jules Soulages (1803–1856), a lawyer from Toulouse and the leading collector of Italian Renaissance items in his day, once owned this box, which was bought by the Museum in 1859, some two years after being exhibited with other items if his at Marlborough House, between December 1856 and January 1857.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wood (possibly alder or poplar) with moulded white lead <i>pasta di muschio</i> decoration, gilded
Brief Description
Gilt box with moulded white lead pasta di muschio decoration, Italy, ca. 1510
Physical Description
Pastiglia box or casket with scenes from Roman History: (1, front) Marcus Curtius leaping into the gulf; (II, right side) the musician Arion jumping overboard (?); (III, back) the young David holding the severed head of Goliath before a crowd rejoicing and music-making; (IV, left side) two soldiers, each mounted on an elephant, fighting, while a third, with a large branch in hand seems to spur on the beasts.

The lid with a central boss handle. The design depiects a garland; at centre two masks stflanked by harpies. Four flat, round feet. Fitted with a sprung brass catch (later addition).



Gilded fields with stippled punchmarks. The inside is fully lined with printed decorative paper (with green colouring) which is probably continental (possibly German) c1700-50.







Construction

Nailed, butted boards, the bottom board nailed up. The lid attached with two wire ring hinges. With moulded, applied white paste ornament on a textured, gilded background. Water gilded on a reddish bole.



Condition

Various small losses of paste ornament
Dimensions
  • Height: 10.2cm
  • Width: 16cm
  • Depth: 10.2cm
Dimensions taken from departmental catalogue. Not checked on object
Style
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
  • Small display curated by James Yorke, gallery 126, 1984-1985 The lid has a decoration, characteristic of the Moral and Love Themes workshop; the pinnacle, with tear-drop motifs, bearded masks and harpies framed in a rectangular laurel wreath and an outer border with an interlacing pattern somewhat worn. Seraphim are placed at the four corners, something which occurs on box no. 82-1890. On the front is the sacrifice of the Manlius Curtius, on the back David with the head of Goliath, on the left side Roman soldiers battling with elephants, recalling the stories of Pyrrhus or Hannibal, and on the right a figure in the sea between two ships, possibly Palinarus, Aeneas’ helmsman, who drowned. The composition is similar to the one on box no. 1566-1855. Gesticulating elders and standard bearing soldiers, although there are fewer of them, are very much in evidence, and the same treatment of the crowd scene is to be found on the “David” on the back. The equestrian Manlus Porquatus, deriving from a Briosco plaquette, is repeated on other boxes, The viola da mano playing women, celebrating David’s triumph, are an adaptation of Europa’s sisters or the lamenting Thisbe. The left hand scene depicts stylized elephants, knights (or in this case, mahuts) deriving from equestrian battle scenes and the frequently represented youthful soldier, waving a branch. The box is supported by flattened ball feet, with floral decoration and four nails on the bottom help hold the box together. The box is lined with eighteenth century printed paper. (1984-1985)
  • CASKET ITALIAN; about 1490 Stucco work on a gilt ground.(pre October 2000)
Object history
Part of the Soulages Collection, purchased for 3l.
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
Production
This item is attributed by Patrick de Winter (see references) to the Workshop of Moral and Love themes.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Gilt-boxes, decorated with scented lead-based paste (pasta di muschio) and illustrated with biblical or classical legends, were popular throughout Italy between about 1470 and 1570. This example includes the stories of David and Goliath and Marcus Curtius, who sacrificed his own life in order to stop an earthquake in Rome, by plunging with his horse into a chasm, which promptly closed up over him and ceased the quake. Jules Soulages (1803–1856), a lawyer from Toulouse and the leading collector of Italian Renaissance items in his day, once owned this box, which was bought by the Museum in 1859, some two years after being exhibited with other items if his at Marlborough House, between December 1856 and January 1857.
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. 59, pl. 22
Collection
Accession Number
5625-1859

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMay 1, 2001
Record URL