Gilded Coffer, Belloni family – Venice, 16th century

Belloni family, Venice

XVI century


Coffer with opening top, slightly convex front like an urn with shaped shelf support, decorated on the front with a carved tablet, while the rest of the object is simply painted. The front started with four pilasters that create three reserves, the two lateral pilasters have two twisted columns on the bottom, the central pilasters are instead painted with gold candelabra and traces of color on a blue background.
In the two lateral reserves of the coffer, carved in bas-relief in the tablet, two poles around which oak branches are twisted; in the central reserve a quatrefoil motif with flowers and crosses on the sides encloses a laurel wreath with a bow on which a heraldic coat of arms hangs.

The coat of arms, a gold band accompanied by 2 circles of the same placed on the bar all over blue, corresponds to the coat of arms of the Belloni family of Venice. In the frame under the top a pattern of successive leaves is painted, on the sides as well as on the foot a simple border with a large blue field; unfortunately the painting of the top is completely lost.

Dimensions: 28 x 56 x 25 cm ( 11 x 22 x 9,8 in )


Historical-stylistic analysis:

It is believed that the painted or decorated and gilded chests were furnishings that accompanied the bride’s dowry as a wedding gift. There are the large boxes commonly called trousseau and the rarer cassine ones, believed to be jewelry boxes. For some time scholars have been struggling with regard to placing the production of this typical Renaissance furniture in Florence or Venice; more probably they were made in various cities with slightly different characteristics, so much so that we have cases with the front painted by Florentine but also Venetian artists and similarly it had to work for those worked in pastille and painted. The coat of arms of the Belloni family should take away our embarrassment, in fact it is a Venetian family.
Undoubted is the rarity of the Renaissance object and the state of conservation which has decorations fully consistent with the ornaments of the time and places the object in the sixteenth century.

Clelia Alberici writes โ€œโ€ฆ The stucco decoration, called a pastiglia, is a mixture of plaster, glue and sometimes marble dust to make it more homogeneous, spread with a brush on a thin canvas fixed to the wood. The tablet is modeled as a bas-relief by means of graffiti tools or on molds, then painted and gilded. This technique was widely used in the Renaissance to decorate chests, chests and cornices with subtle reliefs. Given the fragility of the tablet, the Venetian cassoni received are few and are part of the classicist orientations of the Lombards and of Venetian sculpture between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century … rectangular boxes were decorated in rice paste tablets โ€ฆ. “

Published in the Alberici volume we find a couple of very similar caissons with a protruding front, one convex like this one and a shelf below.


– Clelia Alberici, Il Mobile Veneto,ย ed. Electa 1980.

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