Tiberius Gracchus and Cornelia
Appearing at the end of the 14th century in the Republics of Florence and of Sienna, cassoni are marriage chests made in pairs and given to the bride so that she could arrange her trousseau in it. Once placed in the bedroom, they served a useful purpose.
Remarkable for their painted designs and their iconography that was previously unseen, these cassoni were generally made by renowned artists. We have only a few of them in their original state. In fact, starting in the 19th century, the painted panels were detached from their chests and presented as paintings by collectors and merchants.
The story is divided into three parts, read from left to right: the moment when Cornelia leaves the family home to live with her husband, then the story of Tiberius and the two serpents, symbolising the two spouses, and finally the sacrifice of Tiberius who died while killing the male serpent. This theme, taken from Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, exalts the virtues of marriage and family and shows the young bride the model of exemplary Roman matriarch, Cornelia, who knew how to rear her sons, famous Roman tribunes known as the Gracchi, all by herself. The elements of architecture, like the groups of people, make the transition between the episodes and the history: the façade of the church located between two scenes on the left brings to mind the church of San Miniato in Florence – which inspired Alberti for the façade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, finished in 1470. Trajan’s Column, behind the church, is a reminder that the main actors are Roman.
This panel is part of a pair, the second panel on the front of the chest representing the story of Antiochus and Stratonice (E.Cl. 1744), taken from Plutarch, which also glorifies the theme of renunciation in the name of love.
The National Renaissance Museum presents fifteen pained panels, twelve of which come from the prestigious collection of the Marquis Campana, and eight of them are attributed to Giovanni de Ser Giovanni (1406-1486) and his workshop. The end of the Scheggia’s career is marked by the collaboration with his son Antonfrancesco di Giovanni, whose work can be discerned on this panel.