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Thinking Outside the Box

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Special Exhibition: Thinking Outside the Box: European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases from the Permanent Collection (1500–1900)

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Unusual boxes of varying sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and purposes—all from the Museum’s European decorative arts collection—are presented by curator Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide.

Thinking Outside the Box

European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases from the Permanent Collection (1500–1900)

December 7, 2010–October 30, 2011

This installation features a selection of one hundred examples of important boxes, caskets, and small chests from the Museum's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. For centuries, boxes, caskets, cabinets, and chests played an important role in everyday life. Ranging from strongboxes to travel cases and from containers for tea or tobacco to those for the storage of toiletries or silverware, these lidded pieces were made in a large variety of shapes and sizes, and of many different materials. The form and decoration of these objects not only reflect changes in social customs and manners but also follow the stylistic developments in Europe over four hundred years. Pieces made of tortoiseshell, carved and veneered wood, porcelain, hard stones and natural substances, embroidery, various metals, leather, enamel, pastiglia, and straw are included. These objects, some of which have not been on display for years, were much more than mere containers and often became precious works of art, collected in their own right.