Exhibition Podcasts

Love and marriage in renaissance florence
The Courtauld Wedding chests

12 February - 17 May 2009



Cassone panel detail

Detail from a cassone panel painting

detail from cassone panel painting

In an age of limited literacy, the finely painted and beguiling panels set into the wedding chests were visual storybooks with the power to transport their viewers into a new world, which imaginatively combined past and present. The tales they depicted were drawn from a large pool of familiar stories – the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome, the Old Testament, and the poetry of Boccaccio and Petrarch.

These stories were intended to divert and give pleasure to the husband and wife and they often contained a strong moral message. The stories chosen for the chests emphasised ideal virtues such as bravery, constancy, obedience and prudence; models which members of a patrician family might strive to emulate.

To listen to Jim Harris, PhD student at The Courtauld Institute of Art, narrating some of the fascinating stories depicted on the marriage chest panels in the exhibition, click on the links below.

One of The Courtauld wedding chests

Vasari on Cassoni painters

Listen to the account of Giorgio Vasari, an artist and art historian from the 16th century, on the artists who painted wedding chest panels.

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Detail of the Morelli chest

Camillus chases the Gauls from Rome

Listen to story of the Roman hero, Marcus Furius Camillus, defeating the Gauls and thereby ending the siege of Rome.

This story is shown on the front panel of The Courtauld's Morelli chest.

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Detail of the Nerli chest panel

The treacherous Schoolmaster of Falerii

In this story, Camillus proves to be a virtuous man by refusing the help of a treacherous schoolmaster.

This story is depicted on the front panel of The Courtauld's Nerli chest.

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Detail of a Courtauld cassoni panel

The virtue of Scipio

Roman general Scipio shows his continence and generosity when he returns a beautiful captive and her dowry to her betrothed.

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Marriage chest from the National Gallery of Scotland

A tale from Boccaccio’s Decameron

For having accused the virtuous Ginevra falsely of adultery, Ambrogiuolo was punished by being stung to death by insects. This story is told on a pair of wedding chests, painted by Giovanni Toscani, that are reunited in the exhibition for the first time in over 150 years.

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