Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Case (étui) with an amorous inscription

Made in Italy
Leather (Cuir bouilli), wood core, red cord
Overall (case only): 8 1/4 x 3 1/8 x 3 1/4 in. (20.9 x 8 x 8.2 cm) Overall (with strap extended): 15 9/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 1/4 in. (39.6 x 8 x 8.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1950
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 307
Etui in medieval inventories and expense accounts was a general term for storage or travel containers of various materials and sizes. One such inventory of the early fourteenth century itemizes a small étui de cuir bouilli, was purchased to hold a painting by Jehan d’Orléans, painter to King Charles VI of France. The term cuir bouilli, literally, "boiled leather," is used to describe a particular type of leather decoration. Soaked in a lukewarm solution of resin or wax to make it soft and flexible, the leather was molded into the desired shape. Decorative patterns were then tooled or impressed on the surface and often highlighted in color, gilding, or punching.
References are also made to small étui of cuir bouilli which were designed specifically to be attached to one’s costume. Used to carry quill pens, ink wells, books, cutlery, and other personal possessions, these objects are frequently depicted in fifteenth-century paintings and manuscript illuminations. This Italian example has two interior compartments designed to contain a knife and spoon, and is inscribed A BONA FEDE DE TEL BON ("in good faith of so good" [a heart]); the tooled heart that appears at the end of the inscription replaces the actual word.
Inscription: (in raised letters, on box) may be read as: A BONA FEDE TE AMO DEL BON heartshape [CUORE?]; trans. In good faith I love thee with a good heart (or: I really love you with all my heart), by WHF. (on cover) A~gamma
Private Collection, New York (until 1950); Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York (March 9, 1950, no. 150)
Husband, Timothy B., and Jane Hayward, ed. The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 89, p. 81.

Bayer, Andrea, ed. Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. no. 41, pp. 111-112.

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