Pair of Marriage Chests: The Nerli Chest
Biagio di Antonio (1446-1516), Jacopo del Sellaio (1441-1493) and Zanobi di Domenico (active 1464-1474), 1472
Weddings have always been occasions forâ€¯flamboyantâ€¯spending. Inâ€¯eliteâ€¯Florentine society during the Renaissance, wealthyâ€¯husbands-to-beâ€¯commissioned pairs of sumptuously decoratedâ€¯marriageâ€¯chests. The Italian name for these chests isâ€¯cassoni.
Traditionally, theâ€¯newlyweds and the groomâ€™s familyâ€¯accompanied theâ€¯cassoniâ€¯in the streetsâ€¯from the brideâ€™sâ€¯family homeâ€¯toâ€¯her newâ€¯abode. Containing her dowry of linen and fine clothing,â€¯cassoniâ€¯wereâ€¯thenâ€¯displayed inâ€¯itsâ€¯mostâ€¯importantâ€¯andâ€¯expensivelyâ€¯furnishedâ€¯room.
This pair is known as theÂ Morelli-NerliÂ cassoni.Â They celebrate the marriage of a rich Florentine merchant, Lorenzo Morelli, to an aristocratic young woman,â€¯Viaggiaâ€¯Nerli, in 1472.â€¯Both familiesâ€™ coats of arms are displayed on the corners of each chest.
Theseâ€¯cassoniâ€¯ are unique in having survived as a pair with their originalâ€¯paintedâ€¯backâ€¯panels, displayed on the wall above.â€¯Paintedâ€¯curtainsâ€¯mimicâ€¯the richlyâ€¯patterned silk importedâ€¯into Florenceâ€¯fromâ€¯Syria and theâ€¯Islamicâ€¯Mediterranean. Suchâ€¯fabrics are alsoâ€¯hinted atâ€¯inside the lid â€” a reminder of the chestâ€™sâ€¯originalâ€¯contents.
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