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Marriage Chest with Ceres Searching for Her Daughter, Proserpina

Companion to Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1944-15-6

Artist/maker unknown, Italian

Made in Tuscany, Italy, Europe


Wood with painted and gilded plaster decoration

36 5/8 inches × 6 feet 7 1/2 inches × 28 3/8 inches (93 × 201.9 × 72.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 250, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Joseph E. Temple Fund, 1944

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This marriage chest is one of a pair in the Museum depicting the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto, Roman god of the underworld. Here Proserpina's mother Ceres, goddess of agriculture, is searching for her daughter in a forest inhabited by satyrs, half-human and half-goat. Renaissance marriage chests, given to a bride by the groom's family, were frequently painted with stories from antiquity, but the Museum's pair is notable for its carved compositions derived from sculpted reliefs on ancient Roman burial containers called sarcophagi. The unknown designer of these narratives interpreted his ancient sources rather loosely, unlike the more classicizing approach of sixteenth-century artists. Chests as elaborate as this would have been displayed prominently and appreciated more for their decoration than their utility. The fifteenth-century Florentine reformer Girolamo Savonarola criticized the prevailing fashion for such mythological subjects for brides' chests, preferring instead more uplifting themes from the lives of saints. Dean Walker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 114.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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