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Coffret

Date:
early 1400s
Geography:
Made in possibly Siena, Italy
Culture:
Italian
Medium:
Walnut, leather, gesso, painting, and gilding
Dimensions:
Overall: 8 1/8 x 24 13/16 x 7 15/16 in. (20.6 x 63 x 20.2 cm)
Classification:
Woodwork-Furniture
Credit Line:
Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941
Accession Number:
41.100.188
  • Description

    Coffers such as this, called forzerini and cofanetti, were intended as betrothal gifts and held precious dowry objects such as cosmetics, combs, or sewing tools. The lively decoration includes knights and ladies, musicians, dancers, and putti, along with armorial medallions (left blank) and patterns of vines and tendrils, reminiscent of the imagery found in model books used by artists from the fourteenth century.
    The lid of the coffer includes an inscription that reads: "Honesty [onestà; or virtue] makes a woman beautiful." The word used for virtue could also mean chastity, and the saying touches on several aspects of Renaissance thought. Onestà and beauty in a woman could be at war with each other-or they could reach harmony, as when Petrarch says of his beloved Laura: "Two great enemies, Bellezza and Onestà / has brought together with so much Concord, / That her holy soul felt rebellion no more."

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Carved in relief on top: ONESSTÀ FA BELLA DONNA, or "Honesty [or Virtue] makes a woman beautiful" (as per Love and Marriage Exhibition Catalogue, p. 110).



    (carved in relief on top) ONESSTÀ FA BELLA DONNA - "Virtue makes a woman beautiful"

    written in pencil: (virtue in the [nella] beautiful woman; or; A (una virtuous woman?)

    Professor Alessandro Bagnoli (Pinacoteca Nazionale SIena) saw the coffret in December 1988 and read the inscription ONESSTA FA BELLADONNA. Label changed to reflect this reading (F instead of N).

  • Provenance

    Frédéric Spitzer (d. 1890), Paris (until 1893); Maurice Chabrières-Arlès,Lyon and Paris (from at least 1903); George and Florence Blumenthal, Paris and New York (from at least 1927-1941)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
467760

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