Casket

The rectangular box rests on four detachable lobed feet. The box has broad cast moldings above and below with a string of beads around the top and bottom edges. The sides of the box are formed of square panels of intricate geometric ornament in low relif- four across the front of the box and three along the sides. The box has two covers assembled on one hinge; the interior cover may be concealed within the outer cover by a separate lock. The square panels on the hidden cover are of a different geometric design, incorporating an interlaced chain with an inscription and at the center initials in cipher. The panels, separated by plain moldings, are cast individually from a model that was pierced and assembled. They are meticulously finished.

This elaborate casket, a tour-de-force of goldsmithing techniques, was probably designed and commissioned by English collector and connoisseur William Beckford as a gift for his Portuguese companion, Gregorio Franchi. The two collaborated on the design of many original works of art, using a variety of historical sources. The exterior panels show the influence of Islamic geometric ornament, while the panels on the inner lid are based on interlaced knot motifs.

Inscription

Incorporated into each of the twelve panels of interior cover: "Le tems peut nous detruire mais non pas nous detacher" surrounding initials in cipher, possibly FDM

Marks

On lower edge of molding, maker's mark IH (Grimwade 1819); lion passant; leopard's head crowned; date letter e; sovereign's head.

Provenance

Made for Chevalier Gregorio Franchi (b. 1770 - d. 1828); May 16, 1827, sold by Gregorio Franchi at Christie's, London, lot 99. By 1989, private collection; April 6, 1989, sold from this private collection at Sotheby's, New York, lot 177. Spink & Son, London. Asprey & Co., London. Titus Kendall, London; May 25, 1994 sold by Titus Kendall to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 25, 1994)

Credit Line

Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Charlotte Beebe Wilbour and Frank Brewer Bemis Fund

Casket

  • English (London), 1820–21
  • Marked by John Harris, English, active about 1818–1827
Dimensions
H. 15 cm x W. 32.2 cm D. 25.3 cm (5 7/8 x 12 11/16 x 9 15/16 in.) Weight: 5,769.3 gm (185 oz 10 dwt)
Medium or Technique
Gilded silver
Classification
Silver
Type
Box; casket
Accession Number
1994.89
On view
Simone and Alan Hartman Galleries (European Decorative Arts) - 241

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