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date: 15 September 2019

Cassone [It.: ‘chest’]locked

  • Ellen Callmann
  •  and J. W. Taylor

Extract

[It.: ‘chest’]

Term used for large, lavishly decorated chests made in Italy from the 14th century to the end of the 16th. The word is an anachronism, taken from Vasari (2/1568, ed. G. Milanesi, 1878–85, ii, p. 148), the 15th-century term being forziero. Wealthy households needed many chests, but the ornate cassoni, painted and often combined with pastiglia decoration, were usually commissioned in pairs when a house was renovated for a newly married couple and were ordered, together with other furnishings, by the groom. Florence was the main centre of production, though cassoni were also produced in Siena and occasionally in the Veneto and elsewhere.

The earliest cassoni were simple structures with rounded lids, probably painted in solid colours, such as the red cassone in Giotto’s Annunciation to St Anne (c. 1305; Padua, Arena Chapel). The earliest known chests with painted designs are all from the same shop (e.g. Florence, Pal. Davanzati, inv. mob. 162). Like the much more numerous contemporary chests with gilded low-relief in pastiglia (...

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