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Chest, c. 1400-1425

Unknown (Italian School , Tuscany - 15th century)

gold leaf over gesso on wooden carcass
64 x 188 x 61 cm
Purchased 1980
National Gallery of Canada (no. 23644)

"Cassoni" or chests were essential household goods. This is a rare, early example of the type. While repaired and altered, the front survives largely intact. The repeating pattern - an eagle holding a banner - was created with a mould, applied to the wood structure, then gilded. The technique allowed for large-scale production. Painted coats-of-arms were sometimes added, as done here. Such works survived as family heirlooms long after they fell out of fashion. They became popular again in the 19th century, as collectors sought to recreate the context in which painting and sculpture had once been displayed, and questioned the distinction between fine and applied arts.

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