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Overall: 13 x 26.2 x 1 cm (5 1/8 x 10 5/16 x 3/8 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1978.39
Among the most lavish and deluxe products of French ivory workshops of the 1300s were large caskets carved with elaborate scenes drawn from courtly romances. The panels shown here come from such a casket. The largest panel (center) once formed the lid and depicts a tournament, the most splendid and romantic of knightly activities. Just to the right is a favorite allegory of chivalric love: knights assaulting the castle of love. The two side panels depict other scenes such as the fountain of youth, Sir Gawain and the Lion, and Lancelot crossing the sword bridge. These images suggesting chivalry, fertility, virginity, youth, and an idealized courtly love likely derive from manuscripts including the Roman de la Rose and the poems of Chrétien de Troyes. Such texts were often found within the libraries of the aristocracy, so the casket’s symbolic images would have been readily understood. Such caskets may have originally been gifts between a man and a woman. The expense of the material, ivory, suggests they were produced for an elite, aristocratic clientele.
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