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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

Geography:
Made in Tuscany, Italy, Europe

Date:
1475-1500

Medium:
Wood with painted and gilded plaster decoration

Dimensions:
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:
1944-15-7

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

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    This chest is one of a pair in the Museum relating the story of the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto, Roman god of the underworld. Proserpina’s mother, Ceres, goddess of agriculture, is shown searching for her daughter in a forest inhabited by satyrs and centaurs. Italian Renaissance marriage chests, often given to a bride by the groom’s family, rarely survive as pairs; notably, the Museum’s set is decorated with sculpted, rather than painted, compositions based on ancient Roman sarcophagi (burial containers). Used to store the precious textiles of the bride’s trousseau, such elaborate chests would have been displayed prominently in the couple’s bedchamber. Jack Hinton, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 103.

  • 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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