12 February – 17 May 2009

Wedding Scene on Courtauld Wedding ChestPanel depicting a wedding chestWedding Scene on Wedding Chest Panel

A marriage in 15th century Florence was not primarily about love or religion. Instead it was a dynastic alliance between powerful families.

To celebrate these marriages, pairs of great chests, lavishly decorated with precious metals and elaborate paintings, were commissioned. These items – now generally called cassoni – were often the most expensive of a whole suite of decorative objects commissioned to celebrate marriage alliances between powerful families. They were displayed in Florentine palaces and used to store precious items such as clothes and textiles.

The painted panels set into the wedding chests tell fascinating tales from ancient Greece, Rome and Palestine, as well as from Florentine literature and more recent history. These beautifully told stories were intended to entertain as well as to instruct husband and wife, their servants, children and visitors.

This exhibition is the first in the UK to explore this important and neglected art form of Renaissance Florence. The exhibition is focused around two of The Courtauld’s great treasures: the pair of chests ordered in 1472 by the Florentine Lorenzo Morelli to celebrate his marriage with Vaggia Nerli. These are the only pair of cassoni to be still displayed with their painted backboards (spalliere).The unusual survival of both the chests and their commissioning documents enables a full examination of this remarkable commission.

Exhibition Benefactors:
Madeleine and Timothy Plaut

Exhibition Supporters:

The Italian Cultural Institute

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Hugues and Emmanuelle Lepic

The Michael Marks Charitable Trust