Casket with Beasts in Scrolls

about 1150–75
Maker Unidentified

Object Place: Europe, England


6.1 x 10.9 x 6.8 cm (2 3/8 x 4 5/16 x 2 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Champlevé enamel and gilding on copper

On View

I. W. Colburn Chapel Gallery (Gallery 254A)





Rectangular box constructed from four side plaques, a base plate, and a beveled lid. Hammered, champlevé, engraved, punched, enameled, soldered, and gilded. the underside of the lid and the bottom of the base are gilded; enamel colors are yellow, yellow green, apple green, lapis blue, light gray blue, white, turquoise (two shades), red, and translucent purple in fields of up to five colors. On the central plaque of the lid, against a punched gold ground, intertwined tendrils, symmetrically arranged around a central hole, sprout multicolored, scalloped blossoms of various shapes. On the sloping sides of the lid against a blue ground bifurcated tendrils, gilded and punched, form medallions (four on the long sides and two on the short sides) around their blossoms. Translucent purple and apple green alternate as grounds for the varied multicolored blossoms. Their curled edges, chased and in reserve, pass alternately above and under the medallions. Intersecting tendrils are marked by knots.
The sides of the box show a lapis blue ground, a continuous acanthus scroll, again punched and in reserve, with simple, curled leaves, some of which are enameled. Emerging from a single stem, the branches develop into medallions and divide either to form a branch for the next medallion or to sprout narrower tendrils with curved leaves to fill the interstices. In the medallions (three on the front and back and two on the sides), a turquoise ground surrounds various beasts in reserve: on the front are a quadruped with a monkey’s head and cap, two facing goats on their hind legs, a quadruped with donkey ears; on the right side are two affronted griffins; on the back are a lion, rabbit, and centaur with a bow; and on the left side are two addorsed quadrupeds.


By 1847, Debruge-Dumenil collection, Paris [see note 1]; 1850, sold at Debruge-Dumeil sale, Paris. By 1861, Peter Soltykoff, Paris; April 8, 1861, sold by Peter Soltykoff at Hotel Drouot, no. 91. By 1868, Mannheim collection, Paris; April 17, 1868, sold at Mannheim sale, Paris, lot 1. By 1905, Jules Frésart, Liège; by 1905 and until at least 1930, Mme. Jules Frésart [see note 2]. By 1952, Galerie les Tourettes, Bale, Switzerland [see note 3]; 1952, sold by Galerie les Tourettes, through Otto Wertheimer, Paris, and bought by the MFA for $4200 through the Helen and Alice Colburn Fund. (Accession date: October 9, 1952)

[1] Jules Labarte, "Description des objects d'art qui composent la collection Debruge Dumenil," 1847, p. 581, no. 680. [2] In 1905, the casket was exhibited in Liège, by Mme. Fresart, "Exposition de l'art Ancien au Pays de Liège," no. 279, pl. 14. In 1930, the casket was again exhibited by Mme. Goffart-Frésart, "Catalogue de l'Exposition de l'Art de l'Ancien Pays de Liège et des anciens Arts wallons," 1930, no. 179. [3] At the time of acquisition in 1952, Georg Swarzenski noted, in MFA curatorial file, that this casket was never on the market from the time it was in the Frésart collection until it was bought by the MFA.

Credit Line

Helen and Alice Colburn Fund