Polychrome painted wood casket with iron mounting

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Alpine country
15th century
softwood base, iron
20 cm
32 cm
19.5 cm

E. Berger, Prunk-Kassetten: Europäische Meisterwerke aus acht Jahrhunderten, Stuttgart 1998, p. 33.
D. de Negker, ‘Das hailig römisch reich mit sampt seinen gelidern’, Augsburg 1510, painted panel.

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This polychrome wooden casket is decorated with ten coats of arms from the Holy Roman Empire. The casket is fitted with iron and has a folding lock in a square base. The edges of the lock and the iron bands around the casket end in a leaf shape with three notches. The casket stands on four carved feet and the lid is shaped like a hipped roof.
The coats of arms are painted on a black surface, on a yellow or red background. Red flowers are painted between the shields. The coats of arms on the front depict the Electorate of Bavaria, the Duchy of Brandenburg and the Keur-Palts or Duchy of Brabant. On the reverse side are the Duchy of Lorraine, the Electorate of Saxony and the Silesian Region in the Kingdom of Bohemia. On the left-hand side is the Duchy of Württemberg and presumably the prince-archbishopric of Salzburg or the city of Nuremberg. On the right-hand side is the coat of arms of the Duchy of Austria and the County of Zollern. The edges of the box are decorated with black stripes.

Coffins with a heraldic theme were widespread in the Middle Ages in the German territories and Switzerland. The various coats of arms placed together suggest that they were presented as gifts by groups of aristocrats to individuals. The size of the box indicates its use as a storage place for important documents. 


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