An extremely rare mid 16th century (circa 1540) Italian walnut and parcel gilt cassone, probably from the Tuscany region in near original condition.
This exceptional piece consists of a deep buttoned brown leather top with stud detail with a moulded edge – the top upholstered some years ago and more recently finished in leather making it a very versatile item.
The top opens to reveal the inner lid lined with fabric and a good storage area, the front and sides being profusely carved with parcel gilt decoration consisting of carved panels in totally original condition.
The two wonderfully carved high relief parcel gilt panels of figural narrative, mythical scenes of a merman and female in the sea with stars in the sky, the other panel depicting a knight and dragon with stars in the sky, both panels within a finely carved and parcel gilt border of scrolling design with grotesque masks with carved atlantes to the centre and outer corners with carved grotesque masks, scroll and swag decoration.
This leads down to a stylised scallop shell plinth, the side panels also carved with reclining female figures in a landscape within a carved scroll border.
The Renaissance was the great period of the cassone, although they continued to be made up until and during the 19th century. They have survived often due to the fact they were made in pairs as marriage chests. Also, they were of such good quality and design the generations who owned them passed them down through their families and they were treasured as works of art.
Unfortunately we cannot find any identical examples of design or carving, some examples with similarities can be found in the V&A Museum, London and in the book ‘A History of Italian Furniture’ Volume I by William M Odom.
This unique cassone is in very good near original condition, other than the top, is of stable construction and can go straight into a home or collection – the upholstered leather top makes this cassone a very versatile piece for both seating and storage.