University of Arizona Museum of Art

UAMA – University of Arizona Museum of Art

Cassone  walnut, with gilt
Italian, early 16th century
Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation


Courtesy by University of Arizona Museum of Art

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A cassone is an elaborately decorated chest, symbolic of a wealthy marriage. During the Renaissance marriages were usually arranged in order to secure an alliance between families. Grooms would commission a cassone and the bride’s dowry would be placed inside. After the wedding the cassone typically found its home in the couple’s bedroom and held clothing, linens, and other treasures.
Large workshops were established to keep up with the demand for cassoni and even famous artists like Sandro Botticelli were known to have painted some. Cassoni of the quattrocento were usually painted, but by the sixteenth century, were intricately carved. Inspired by Roman sarcophagi, cassoni were often decorated with mythological scenes.
The front panel of this one is carved in high relief and depicts two putti holding up an oval containing the animal symbols of the four evangelists; the angel, lion, ox, and eagle. Originally gilded, remnants of gold are still visible in some areas. The sides of the cassone are decorated with rosettes while the back is flat and undecorated so it could be placed against a wall. Although some cassoni had coats of arms included in the decoration, this one does not and the original owner remains unknown.

Text by Olivia Miller, Curator of Exhibitions and Education