Yenra : Furniture : Cassone

Cassone, in furniture, the Italian name for a marriage coffer. The ancient and once almost universal European custom of providing a bride with a chest or coffer to contain the household linen, which often formed the major part of her dowry, produced in Italy a special type of chest of monumental size and artistic magnificence. The cassoni of the people, although always large in size, were simple as regards ornament; but those of the nobles and the well-to-do mercantile classes were usually imposing as regards size, and adorned with extreme richness. The cassone was almost invariably much longer than the English chest, and even at a relatively early period it assumed an artistic finish such as was never reached by the chests of northern Europe, except in the case of a few of the royal corbeilles de mariage made by such artists as Boulle for members of the house of France. Many of the earlier. examples were carved in panels of geometrical tracery, but their characteristic ornament was either intarsia or gesso, or a mixture of the two. Bold and massive feet, usually shaped as claws, lioncels, or other animals are also exceedingly characteristic of cassoni, most of which are of massive and sarcophagus-like proportions with molded lids, while many of them are adorned at their corners with figures sculptured in high relief. The scroll-work inlay is commonly simple and graceful, consisting of floral or geometrical motives, or arabesques. The examples coated with gilded gesso or blazoned with paintings are, however, the most magnificent. They were often made of chestnut, and decorated with flowers and foliage in a relief which, low at first, became after the Renaissance very high and sharp. The panels of the painted cassoni frequently bore representations of scriptural and mythological subjects, or incidents derived from the legends of chivalry. Nor was heraldry forgotten, the arms of the family for which the chest was made being perhaps emblazoned upon the front. These chests rarely bear dates or initials, but it is often possible to determine their history from their armorial bearings.