This unusual cassone is one of the best-preserved works in the Robert Lehman Collection. The sarcophagus-shaped chest has three descending convex show sides below a frieze and overhanging lid, the front with two carved panels, each with a central armorial cartouche below an interlaced ribbon with scrolled rinceaux terminating in female demi-figures. Two birds feast on seed clusters from the rinceaux flanking the armorial; there are two animals below. Each curved end is carved with opposing fish-shaped leaf scrolls with an iron carrying handle. Above the three curved sides runs a continuous frieze carved with a repeating motif of a burning urn flanked by confronting griffins and bucrania, with a keyhole slightly left of center. The frieze is symmetrically designed on the sides but symmetrically on the front; the lid has an egg-and-dart molding above a recessed dentiled molding; the outward tapering base shows a shaped front apron with two elongated foliate scrolls and vine sprays terminating at each end in a grotesque bearded mascaron; the base has plain concave feet molding. This cassone has been consistently described as Venetian and dated about 1500.(1) Schottmüller identified it as formerly in a private collection in Venice.(2) The alliance coat of arms indicates that it was made for a marriage. The form, with convex sides below a frieze and dentiled lid, has been said to derive directly from that of the antique sarcophagus, but it was also used in contemporary funerary sculpture.(3) One of the most prominent versions was the tomb of Bishop Giovanni Zanetto in the Duomo of Treviso of about 1485 by Pietro Lombardo (ca. 1435 – 1515) and workshop, which may be a more likely source.(4)
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. 197.
1. Odom, William M. A History of Italian Furniture from the Fourteenth to the Early Nineteenth Centuries. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y., 1918 – 19, vol. 1, p. 100 and fig. 58a.
2. Schottmuller, Frida. Furniture and Interior Decoration of the Italian Renaissance. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1928, pp. 41, 242, fig. 89; for another Venetian work, see pp. 41, 242, fig. 90.
3. For the form, see Feulner, Adolf. Stiftung Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz. Vol. 3, Plastik und Kunsthandwerk. Lugano-Castagnola, 1941, p. 112, no. 337, pl. 49; Lurati, Patricia. “Cassoni italiani del Rinascimento nei musei e nelle collezione svizzere.” PhD diss., Universita degli Studi di Siena, 1996 – 97, pp. 94 – 96. For a painted work from Tuscany, see Massinelli, Anna Maria. Il mobile toscano. Milan, 1993, p. 145, pl. xxvi.
4. Luchs, Alison. Tullio Lombardo and Ideal Portrait Sculpture in Renaissance Venice, 1490 – 1530. Cambridge, 1995, fig. 46.