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Chest with Coat of Arms and Emblems of the Medici Family

Artist/maker unknown, Italian

Made in Florence, Italy, Europe

c. 1450-1460

Poplar with painted decoration; iron hardware

19 1/8 x 63 5/16 x 19 1/4 inches (48.6 x 160.8 x 48.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 309, European Art 1100-1500, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Mrs. William E. Helme, 1930

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This chest bears the coat of arms (inside the wreaths on the front and the sides) and heraldic symbols of the Medici family, who dominated the political and cultural life of Florence during the fifteenth century. On the front, the device of a diamond ring and motto with the word “senper” (semper is Latin for “always”) signifies the family’s eternal fame. While the pomegranates and pinecones in the wreaths are attributes of fertility—and often connected with marriage objects—the use of symbols linked to a single family suggests this was a traveling or storage chest rather than a marriage chest. Heraldic emblems, an important feature for both nuptial and everyday objects, are used here to identify and honor the owners of the chest and its contents.

The question of this chest’s function was the subject of new research—until recently, areas of the painted surface were unclear and appeared to show the coats of arms of two families, details typically found on a marriage chest. Scientific study by the Museum’s Conservation Department has revealed the original coloring and confirmed the authenticity of the decoration.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.