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Digital reconstruction of the right side of the front of the chest

Medici Connection

The knowledge of the original color scheme revealed by the study helps us to interpret the significance and family connections of this piece, since the same colors and emblems also appear in other objects related to Medici family patronage around 1460. The diagonal pattern of red, white and green is illustrated on the tabard of a groom in the famous frescoes in the chapel of the Palazzo Medici in Florence by Benozzo Gozzoli, painted in 1459. Other objects and works of art employ similar color schemes and emblems found on the chest. While the exact details of the commission of the chest remain unknown, the technical study supported the link with the Medici family and helped to determine that the chest was likely made for a member of the family or their entourage in the period 1450-60.

Detail showing inscription on the inside of the lid of the chest
The exact function of the chest remains ambiguous, however. It had previously been interpreted as a wedding chest, but such marriage objects would typically have references to this function in their decoration, such as the arms and emblems of the two allied families. The decorative elements on the Philadelphia chest instead have a more general connection to the Medici family alone, and there is little to suggest an association with marriage, other than the appearance of pinecones and pomegranates (symbols of fertility) on the wreaths around the coats of arms, and one other curious feature: a hard-to-find inscription in a fifteenth-century hand on the interior surface on the underside of the lid that reads carissimo mio, “very dearest”. The object may perhaps be closer to items described in fifteenth-century inventories as secure storage chests that were clearly marked to identify their owner; indeed, its relatively small size suggests that it may have been used as a travelling trunk. At present, however, the exact purpose of the chest remains obscure.

 

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