Online Learning Resources – Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: The Courtauld Wedding Chests
A marriage in 15th century Florence was not primarily about love or religion. Instead it was a dynastic alliance between powerful families. To celebrate these marriages, pairs of great chests, lavishly decorated with precious metals and elaborate paintings, were commissioned. The painted panels set into the wedding chests tell fascinating tales from ancient Greece, Rome and Palestine, as well as from Florentine literature and more recent history. These beautifully told stories were intended to entertain as well as to instruct husband and wife, their servants, children and visitors.
Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: The Courtauld Wedding ChestsMore information about the exhibition
Download the Teachers’ Resource pack
10 Things You May Want to Know About Cassoni
Listen to five podcasts telling some of the stories depicted on the painted chests
In an age of limited literacy, the finely painted and beguiling panels set into the wedding chests were visual storybooks with the power to transport their viewers into a new world, which imaginatively combined past and present. The tales they depicted were drawn from a large pool of familiar stories – the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome, the Old Testament, and the poetry of Boccaccio and Petrarch.
These stories were intended to divert and give pleasure to the husband and wife and they often contained a strong moral message. The stories chosen for the chests emphasised ideal virtues such as bravery, constancy, obedience and prudence; models which members of a patrician family might strive to emulate.
To listen to Jim Harris, PhD student at The Courtauld Institute of Art, narrating some of the fascinating stories depicted on the marriage chest panels in the exhibition, click on the links below.
VASARI ON CASSONI PAINTERS
Listen to the account of Giorgio Vasari, an artist and art historian from the 16th century, on the artists who painted wedding chest panels.
CAMILLUS CHASES THE GAULS FROM ROME
Listen to story of the Roman hero, Marcus Furius Camillus, defeating the Gauls and thereby ending the siege of Rome.
This story is shown on the front panel of The Courtauld’s Morelli chest.
THE TREACHEROUS SCHOOLMASTER OF FALERII
In this story, Camillus proves to be a virtuous man by refusing the help of a treacherous schoolmaster.
This story is depicted on the front panel of The Courtauld’s Nerli chest.
THE VIRTUE OF SCIPIO
Roman general Scipio shows his continence and generosity when he returns a beautiful captive and her dowry to her betrothed.
A TALE FROM BOCCACCIO’S DECAMERON
For having accused the virtuous Ginevra falsely of adultery, Ambrogiuolo was punished by being stung to death by insects. This story is told on a pair of wedding chests, painted by Giovanni Toscani, that are reunited in the exhibition for the first time in over 150 years.