Frist Art Museum Presents “Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy”

Exhibition of Marriage Ritual Objects from the Italian Renaissance Opens November 16, 2018

The Frist Art Museum presents Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy, an exhibition (organized by Contemporanea Progetti with the Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy) that offers an intimate view of life in the Renaissance through art commissioned to celebrate marriage and family. Drawing on a selection of outstanding marriage chests, panels, and a variety of domestic objects belonging to the Museo Stibbert, the exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from November 16, 2018, through February 18, 2019.

1. Marriage-Chests-012_Assault-on-a-Maritime-City_Museo-Stibbert_298-513x450

Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso (b. 1415/17, Florence; d. 1465, Florence) and Workshop. Panel from a Marriage Chest (cassone) with Story of an Assault on a Maritime City, ca. 1460. Tempera and gold on panel, 17 3/4 x 20 1/2 in. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy

This exhibition is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Beginning in the late 1300s, cassoni—elaborately painted and gilded marriage chests—were an important part of marriage rituals and among the most prestigious furnishings in the house or palace of the newlyweds. Usually commissioned in pairs and shaped like ancient sarcophagi, the chests were an expression of the family’s wealth and position in society. They were conspicuously paraded through the streets from the bride’s family home to her husband’s home—a clear statement of a new economic and political alliance between elite families—and then later used in the home for seating and storage. Cassoni is considered antecedents to the hope chests popular in America until the middle of the last century.

2. 041_Vase_Museo-Stibbert_955-399x450

Artist unknown (Urbino). Fruit Bowl, 16th century. Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica), 2 3/4 in. height, 4 3/8 in. diameter. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy

The chests’ function, craftsmanship, and decorative techniques, and the significance and sources of the imagery are at the heart of the exhibition,” says Frist Art Museum curator Trinita Kennedy. “We are excited to present several rare complete cassoni, as well as fragments, which include lavish wood panels that usually depict themes of fidelity and love as well as narrative scenes drawn from history and mythology.”

Displayed alongside the chests is an array of other art objects also made for the home, including devotional paintings, pottery, and textiles.

5. 007_The_Trojan_Horse_Museo_Stibbert-700x221

Bernardo di Stefano Roselli (?) (b. 1450, Florence; d. 1526, Florence). Panel from a Marriage Chest (cassone) with Trojan Horse Scene, ca. 1470. Tempera and gold on panel, 19 1/4 x 50 3/8 in. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy

Public Programs

Friday, November 16, 6:30 p.m., Frist Art Museum Auditorium, Free

Opening Night Lecture for Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy: Art, Marriage, and Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace, presented by Jacqueline Marie Musacchio.

Although we live in an era when vast sums of money are lavished on wedding festivities, we are not unique: in Renaissance Florence, middle- and upper-class families spent enormous amounts on marriages that were intended to establish or consolidate the status and lineage of one or both of the respective families. This lecture explores the art and objects—not only the painted wedding chests, but also the paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry, clothing, and household items—associated with marriage and family life in Renaissance Florence. The rituals of marriage, birth, and death required these objects, and by examining them we can examine the life cycle of the Florentine Renaissance family.

Jacqueline Marie Musacchio earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Her research focuses on the role of material culture in Italian Renaissance life, encompassing everything from sculpted portrait busts and domestic devotional images to metalwork bridal girdles and embroidered widows’ veils. She is the author of The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy and Art, Marriage, and Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace. She has contributed to numerous exhibitions as a catalog author or curator, most recently Art and Love in Renaissance Italy.

6. 020_Chest-with-Tournament-Scene_Museo-Stibbert_12922-575x450

Circle of Giovanni di Tommasino Crivelli (documented 1434–1481, Perugia). Marriage Chest (cassone) with Tournament Scenes, ca. 1440–50. Wooden chest with punched, gilded, and painted gesso; hemp lining, 29 1/8 x 63 3/4 x 22 in. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy

Thursday, December 6

Curator’s Tour: Life, Love, and Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy presented by Trinita Kennedy, curator

Noon. Meet at the exhibition entrance. Free for members; admission required for not-yet-members. (A Members-Only Curator’s Tour will be held on Friday, December 7, at noon.)

Cassoni, or marriage chests, were an important part of marriage rituals in Renaissance Italy. Lavishly decorated with biblical and mythological imagery, these chests offer insight into the rituals of Renaissance society. Join Trinita Kennedy as she explores how cassoni and other domestic objects promoted values of love, marriage, and family life.