This cassone was produced as a showpiece. The nail hinges are too weak to hold the heavy lid. In addition, the lid’s overhanging, decorated with bent flute molding and partial gilding, was purposefully distressed in some areas to evoke the impression of generations of use and wear. The relatively small corner feet in the back contrast with the four massive claw foot elements of the display front, which is strongly curved outward. The claws appear to support four pilasters with fluting that is cabled in the lower third section. The form recalls carriage coffers held in position by leather straps.(1) The off-center keyhole and the hollowedout space that likely held a now lost locking mechanism contribute to a Renaissance-like appearance. However, the style of the carving of the three front panels indicates without question a nineteenth- or early twentieth-century manufacture. Moreover, the construction reflects the work of cabinetmakers inexperienced with producing traditional chests. The small molding that frames the panels where they are bent or curved was not strong enough to withstand pressure and has deformed on almost all of the vertical sides. It seems unlikely that the piece was made in one of the great “restoration workshops” of dealers like Elia Volpi (1858 – 1938) or Stefano Bardini (1836 – 1922).(2)
Catalogue entry from: Wolfram Koeppe. The Robert Lehman Collection. Decorative Arts, Vol. XV. Wolfram Koeppe, et al. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 208.
1. The form of the cassone may be compared with the following less exuberant works with curved fronts: No. 124 in the present volume and Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Vol. 3, Ceramiche, vetri, mobili e arredi. Musei e gallerie di Milano. Milan, 1983, p. 314, no. 13, p. 353, pl. 17; Massinelli, Anna Maria. Il mobile toscano. Milan, 1993, p. 145, pl. xxvi. For a comparison of the usage of the piece, see the Renaissance woodcut illustrated in Thornton, Peter. The Italian Renaissance Interior, 1400 – 1600. New York, 1991, pl. 229.
2. Ferrazza, Roberta. Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi. Florence, 1994; Nesi, Antonella. Museo Stefano Bardini: Guida alla visita del museo. Piccoli grandi musei 28. Florence, 2011.