A South-German bismuth painted and wrought iron mounted wood marriage casket, or Hochzeitsschatulle , circa 1600, the cover polychrome painted with Saints Elizabeth and Catherine, portrayed facing and with attributes, the sides painted with fields of scrolling foliage, and flowerheads, strawberries and symbols of betrothal including coronets and clasping hands before a love heart, the hinged cover opening to a sectional interior painted with arabesques, 10.5 x 28 x 18cm overall
Provenance: property from a private collection
The unusual technique of Bismuth painting flourished in Southern Germany (particularly Swabia and Bavaria) and Switzerland during the late 15th and 16th century. Bismuth is a chemical element found in cobalt and nickel mines. It was applied in its oxidised form to the bodies of small caskets such as the present one, in a dark grey or reddish ground on which painted decoration was applied, to give an iridescent appearance (though its iridescence is not often visible on examples that survive today).
A casket similar to the present lot is in the collection of the V&A, London (575-1872). This example also features similar symbols including the strawberries and the clasped hands.
Another example with these motifs is in the collection Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (Inventory no. HG 7865).
This casket is illustrated in Renate Gold, 'Reconstruction and Analysis of Bismuth Painting', in Valerie Dorge, Gary Howlett eds, Painted Wood: History and Conservation , Getty Publications, 1998, pp. 166-7
Areas of repainting to the cover including to the inscriptions and saints, and the lock may have been adapted from a more traditional front-panel lock, and now lacks an interior mechanism.
The interior decoration is possibly later.
The downcast edge of the cover is lacking thin sections, and there are one or two old knocks and chips to the corners and edges.
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