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Art/ Collection/ Art Object


ca. 1550–80 (rebuilt, with extensive replacements)
Italian (Rome or Siena?)
Walnut, carved and partly gilded.
H. 67.8 cm, W. 193 cm, D. 70 cm
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 953
Four crouching lions support this sarcophagus-style chest. The front corners are emphasized by carved, forward-thrusting winged genii figures above the protruding lion, mounted at a 45-degree angle. Bold acanthus scrolls and flowers populated by putti and birds decorate the frieze on the front panel, while in the center two figures hold an armorial scrollwork cartouche with gilded highlights. Stretched foliate volutes ornament the narrow, concave upper frieze and twisted-band molding. The hinged lid is layered with molded edges and a raised plateau with carved acanthus leaves on the canted sides; the dustboard has been replaced. The dynamic acanthus scrolls, carved in high relief with extreme Mannerist exaggeration, evoke an abundance of flowers and foliage that may symbolize the wish for a similar profusion of plenty throughout the life of the patron. The caryatids on the corners accentuate the chest’s bulging body and recall the designs of Bartolomeo Ammanati (1511 – 1592) for the monumental fountain of the Villa Giulia in Rome.(1) The acanthus rinceaux reflect the widespread influence of the ornamental inventions of Perino del Vaga (1501 – 1547) in the generation after Raphael’s Logge for Pope Leo X was open to visitors.(2) Such cassone were often displayed on a slightly oversize platform with molded edges. Sixteenth-century drawings seem to document a similar presentation: the carved feet of such cassoni were extremely vulnerable to damage and humidity, as well as to the normal cleaning routine in a well-run household. Analagous platforms are documented in contemporary design sketches. A drawing of 1544 – 55 in The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributed to Perino’s contemporary Girolamo da Carpi (1501 – 1556) illustrates two different models for chests, one with vase-shaped feet, the other with paws, and both with their individual plinths.(3) A drawing from the Perino workshop at the Courtauld Institute, London, offers a more extravagant solution. The chest’s body rests on carved corner sphinxes, which are in turn supported by a footed plinth that elevates the whole structure like a monument.(4) Several alternative versions of similar plinths can be seen in still another Renaissance drawing (Fig. 126.1).(5) The coat of arms shows the stylized mantello di hermine vajo, or “tongues,” that appear in the arms of several noble Roman and Sienese families in the sixteenth century.6 As all visible heraldic colors are lost, only microscopic analysis of possible residue could assist with identification of the family.

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, pp. 199-200.

1. See Morley, John. The History of Furniture: Twenty-five Centuries of Style and Design in the Western Tradition. Boston, 1999, p. 107, ill. no. 187; Kisluk-Grosheide, Danielle O., Wolfram Koeppe, and William Rieder. European Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. New York, 2006, p. 220. For another related cassone, see Aronson, Joseph. Furniture in the Bob Jones University Collection. Greenville, S.C., 1976, no. 16.
2. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Maurizio, Ed. The Art of the Popes, from the Vatican Collection: How Pontiffs, Architects, Painters, and Sculptors Created the Vatican. Texts by Angela Cipriani et al. New York, 1983, p. 261. [Translation of L’arte dei Papi: Come pontefici, architetti, pittori e scultori costruirono il Vaticano, monumento della christianita. Milan, 1982.]; Reinhardt, Ursula. “Acanthus.” In The History of Decorative Arts, edited by Alain Gruber, [vol. 2], Classicism and the Baroque in Europe, New York, 1996, ill. pp. 97, 104. [Translation of L’art décoratif en Europe, (vol. 2), Classique et baroque. Paris, 1992.].
3. Metropolitan Museum, 1998.465b (Allentown 1980 – 81, p. 35, no. 29; the drawing was then in a private collection). See also Faenson, Liubov, Ed. Italian Cassoni from the Art Collections of Soviet Museums. Leningrad, 1983, ill. p. 18 (drawing by Bernardo Buontalenti [ca. 1531 – 1608] in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence); Henneberg, Josephine von. “Two Renaissance Cassoni for Cosimo i de’Medici in the Victoria and Albert Museum.” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 35, no. 1, 1991, fig. 11 (drawing by Bartolomeo Neroni in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City); Massinelli, Anna Maria. Il mobile toscano. Milan, 1993, p. 52, fig. 76 (drawing in the Biblioteca Marucelliana, Florence).
4. 500 Years of Italian Furniture: Magnificence and Design. Exhibition, 22 April – 21 June 2009. Catalogue edited by Luigi Settembrini, Enrico Colle, and Manolo De Giorgi. Milan. Milan 2009, p. 70, fig. 3 (attributed to a Genovese workshop).
5. Kisluk-Grosheide, Koeppe, and Rieder 2006, fig. 10; see also the catalogue for the sale “Treasures: Princely Taste,” Sotheby’s, London, 6 July 2011, lot V and p. 32, fig. 4.
6. Compare, for example, Brandi, Cesare, Ed. Palazzo Pubblico di Siena: Vicende costruttive e decorazione. Siena, 1983, p. 170, fig. 196 (cartouche at upper left), and p. 406 (arms of the Tori family); Le biccherne di Siena: Arte e finanza all’alba dell’economia moderna. Exhibition, Palazzo del Quirinale, 1 March – 13 April 2002. Catalogue edited by Alessandro Tomei. Rome, 2002, pp. 194 – 95.
Palace of the Marchese Marignoli, Rome; [Palazzo Davanzati, Florence]; J. Horace Harding, New York; Harding sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 1 March 1941, lot 87, ill. Acquired by Robert Lehman from the Harding sale.
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