Embriachi Workshop, Bride's Casket

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Origin
Venice, Italy
Period
Late 14th, early 15th century
Material
Wood, Horn, Bone, Intarsia
Dimensions
31 x 44 x 24 cm
Literature

M. Tomasi, La Bottega degli Embriachi, Florence, 2001, pp. 36-40, no. 7

Bride's caskets were exchanged at the weddings of patrician nobles. Their presentation to the bride marked an important stage in her transition from maiden to wife. The present type would have been bestowed upon the bride to contain her marriage jewellery, letters from her lover and other precious tokens associated with their sacred bond. The pairs of demure, conservatively dressed women around the main frieze of the present casket were probably intended to serve as a models for the virtuous bride, whilst also perhaps evoking the preparations for her forthcoming nuptials.

The Embriachi workshop was a north Italian family of entrepreneurs and carvers. The precise location of the workshop is unknown, except that it originated in Florence in around probably the 1370s.  Baldassare Embrichi, a member of a Florentine noble family, and the Florentine literary circles, during his career acted as both merchant and diplomat. He was therefore rather the financial means behind the bone-carving workshop that bears his name, rather than its leading artist. By 1395, political and financial circumstances had forced him to transfer to Venice. The suggested time range of activity for the workshop differs, from the tightest being 1390-1405, to a wider span of 1370s until at least 1416, but certainly no later than 1433. They employed local workers specialising in 'certosina' (inlay of stained woods, bone and horn), and the workshop produced items carved in bone (usually horse or ox) with wood and bone marquetry. As well as altarpieces, the workshop also made caskets as bridal gifts to hold jewels or documents, and these were often decorated with scenes from mythology.

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