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Casket with mythological scenes

Place made: 
Europe; Italy
Casket with mythological scenes, ca. 1530
Gesso and gold on wood (pastiglia), lined with silk
Overall: 6 1/2 in x 4 1/2 in x 4 3/8 in; 16.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 11.1 cm
Purchase with funds from Gaetano and Susan Vicinelli (Class of 1964) and the Art Acquisition Fund
MH 2015.1

This tiny casket opens a window onto the past, taking us into the domestic world of 16th-century Italy and offering a glimpse into the private lives of Renaissance women. It was once the cherished possession of a woman who used it to hold trinkets and treasures such as cosmetics, perfumes, and jewelry. It illustrates scenes found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, amorous but moralizing tales that relate to different aspects of love. Stories like the Judgment of Paris (depicted on the front of the casket), and Orpheus’s loss of his wife Eurydice (on the right side) promoted the virtues of devotion, sacrifice, loyalty, and honor while condemning the vices of unbridled passion, vanity, and faithlessness. (Sept. 2016)