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Cassone with a Tournament Scene
Italian, Florentine
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Painted chests like this are called cassone (literally ‘a large chest’). They were made to celebrate a marriage and were often used to store a new bride’s dresses and linens. Cassone were in such high demand in Florence that painters like Apollonio di Giovanni had workshops specialising in their decoration.

They were usually placed in the camera, a room with beds that was also a social space. Such a setting invited fashionable subjects, including poetry, ancient history and contemporary civic events, valued by the educated elite who could afford such items. This one shows a jousting tournament: two rows of opposing jousters, separated by wooden arches, aim to push each other off their horses with lances. The rich and busy setting allowed the painter to include lots of detail in the costumes as well as gold leaf in the horses' harnesses.

This chest was substantially altered and restored in the nineteenth century to transform it into a more elaborate structure.

Key facts
Artist Italian, Florentine
Full title Cassone with a Tournament Scene
Date made probably about 1455-65
Medium and support Carved and gilded wood
Dimensions 38.1 × 130.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Henry Bernhard Samuelson, Bt, in memory of his father, 1937
Inventory number NG4906
Location in Gallery Not on display
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