Boxes are an invention that probably predates recorded history, but were certainly present after the Neolithic revolution with a more sedentary lifestyle. By the Middle Ages every home had at least one chest given as part of the bride’s dowry. The chests in the Middle Ages were usually pretty simple affairs but that all changed in the Renaissance. The emergence of a wealthy merchant class meant that the the chest had to be more ornate, more expensive and bigger. The cassone (“large chest”) was one of the trophy furnishings of rich merchants and aristocrats in Italian culture, from the Late Middle Ages onward. The cassone was the most important piece of furniture of that time. It was given to a bride and placed in the bridal suite. It would be given to the bride during the wedding, and it was the bride’s parents’ contribution to the wedding. The casson pictured above would have been an extravagant wedding gift. I have collected photos of a number of beautiful chests and cabinets from around the world, from different time periods and I will show them here along with some very interesting history.
The Hôtel de Cluny is partially constructed on the remains of Gallo-Roman baths dating from the third century (known as the Thermes de Cluny), which are famous in their own right and which may still be visited. In fact, the museum itself actually consists of two buildings: the frigidarium (“cooling room”), where the remains of the Thermes de Cluny are, and the Hôtel de Cluny itself, which houses its impressive collections. The small 15th century medieval alabaster statues seen above are the mourners from the tomb of John the Fearless which have been traveling internationally during the renovation of the Musée des Beaux-Art de Dijon. These unique sculptures, known as “pleurants” or “mourners,” decorate the tomb of John the Fearless, second Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria.