Casket decorated with scenes of the Punic War
Italian Italy; Venice, Casket decorated with scenes of the Punic War, ca. 1500, Wood with molded ‘pastiglia’ decoration, gilt; 15.2 x 21 x 14 cm (6 x 8 5/16 x 5 1/2 inches), Museum Works of Art Fund 51.272
This jewel box may have played a part in an elaborate Italian Renaissance marriage ritual, when gifts from a wealthy groom to his intended bride were paraded through the streets in a small jewelry box. This example was formed by molding pastiglia, a fine, plaster-like material, onto wood, a technique that replicates more costly decorated boxes carved from ivory or bone. The front panel shows the captured Roman general Marcus Atilius Regulus about to be tortured by Carthaginians during the First Punic War (264 - 241 BCE) by being rolled down a hill inside a barrel full of spikes. Such a scene heralded the erudition of the jewel box’s owner, for it was during the Renaissance that classical antiquity was rediscovered.