Italian Painted and Gilt Wedding Casket or Cassone


of sarcophagus form; the front painted with a scene depicting Thetis Carried to the Bridal Chamber of Peleus (The Triumph of Galatea) from the cycle of frescos titled The Loves of The Gods painted on the ceiling of the gallery of the Palazzo Farnese, Rome, a project begun in 1597 by Annibale Carracci (illustrated), in which Peleus embraces Thetis with Triton sounding a conch shell beside them; within borders of Renaissance scrollwork in gilt on a midnight blue ground.

The ends decorated with pounced and raised gesso coats-of-arms; the one on the left being those of the Piccolomini family of Siena, a prominent family from the beginning of 13th Century through to the 18th Century, and which included two popes, Pius II (1405-1464) and his Nephew Pius III (1439-1503)


Height 57 cm (22.5 inches)
Width 61 cm (24 inches)
Depth 31cm (12.25 inches)
North Italian, Early 17th Century

The fresco from which the panting on the present casket is copied was painted by Agostino Carracci, this scene was described by Bellori as the triumph (apotheosis) of the nereid Galatea. Since then, various scholars have postulated that the central couple represent Neptune and Salacia, Glaucus and Scylla, Venus and Triton, and Peleus and Thetis. The series of frescos were revolutionary in that they were the earliest to display classical mythology rather than religious subjects.  This scene is the most sexually explicit of the whole series because of the placement of the principal male figure’s hand on the pubic region of his companion. It is even more explicit in Agostino’s cartoon found in the National Gallery in London (illustrated). In the cartoon, there is no intervening cloth between his groping hand and her flesh. The scowling head of the principal male is a parody of an ancient bust of Emperor Caracalla which would have been found in a niche in the gallery below.