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John N. Lupia

A small case or lidded box for storing various objects. (For reliquary caskets see Reliquary, §I, 1 and Romanesque, §VII.) Among the early types are nuptial caskets, which functioned as courtship gifts or marriage chests, miniature precursors of the Italian Cassone. They were popular from the 4th century ad and were usually made of ivory or wood. An outstanding Early Christian example in silver is Projecta’s Casket (4th century; London, BM), which combines a Christian inscription and secular scenes. In the Byzantine period ivory caskets were produced with rosettes, scrollwork and delicately carved figural reliefs (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §VII, 5). About 50 complete examples survive, including the 10th- or 11th-century Veroli Casket (London, V&A). Some of the Byzantine caskets (e.g. Troyes, Trésor Cathédrale) appear to have had an ecclesiastical use, as storage boxes for pyxes, incense boats and other small liturgical utensils. Secular ivory caskets were produced in ...


Elizabeth C. Parker

Double-sided Latin cross (h. 577 mm, New York, Cloisters, 63.12) that is a masterpiece of Romanesque carving in walrus ivory. Its history is unknown before the 1950s, when it belonged to the art dealer Ante Topic-Mimara of Zagreb, formerly in Yugoslavia, from whom it was acquired for The Cloisters Collection by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1963. It is in excellent condition with the exception of the irregular break at the bottom of the shaft and the complete loss of the bottom terminal. These suggest wear caused from using different holders if it functioned both as a processional and an altar cross. Holes on the lower shaft and cross arm also suggest there was originally a corpus attached, despite the marked projection of the central roundel.

Some 99 figures and 66 biblical inscriptions in Latin enhance the unusually complex iconography of the cross. The obverse, characterized as the Tree of Life by truncated branches on the shaft and cross arms, depicts ...