Lot 11
  • 11

An Italian silver-mounted, gilt-bronze and silk-lined sarcophagus jewel casket attributed to Giovanni Giardini (1646-1722), Rome, circa 1700

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • wood, gilt-bronze, silver
the spreading rectangular cover surmounted by a sleeping nymph, mounted with ribbon-tied swags and foliate scrolls, enclosing a fitted interior with floral-embroidered lids, decorated with eight panels with battle scenes and other scenes relating to the goddess Diana, the front panel with a drawer and four secret drawers, above a base with three small drawers, on scrolling foliate-wrapped feet, the silver unmarked


Formerly Dutch Private Collection

Catalogue Note

Comparative Literature:
Carlo Grigioni, Giovanni Giardini da Forli, Rocca San Casciano, 1963.
Hugh Honour, Goldsmiths and Silvermiths, New York, 1971, pp. 115-121.
Alvar González-Palacios, 'Giovanni Giardini. New works and new documents', The Burlington Magazine, June 1995, pp. 367-376.
Jennifer Montagu, Gold, Silver and Bronze, New Haven/London, pp. 117-131.
Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, fascio 5374.
Alvar González-Palacios, Las Colecciones Reales Espanolas de Mosaicos y Piedras Duras, Madrid, 2001, cat. 39. 
Angela Griseri, Libro di piu pensieri d'architettura di Filippo Juvarra, Turin, 1998, pl. XCI.
Alvar González-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan, 1984, p. 60.

Text - by Alvar González-Palacios:

The celebrated designs by Giovanni Giardini, the greatest goldsmith of the Baroque in Rome, entitled 'Disegni diversi, inventati delineati da Giovanni Giardini da Forli', were engraved by the Bohemian Giovanni Limpach and published in Rome in 1714. They include various projects which relate to this precious casket. The first of these is a design for a cassetta of identical shape to the present example, its lower part divided into two concave-sided flared sections, and with a similar lid, (see fig. 1). In a second engraving, Giardini depicts a religious object, a reliquary urn, of similar shape while adding bold acanthus leaves to the sides, which are related to those on the present casket. A further engraving depicts the base of a cross, which is supported by double scroll feet, which again are similar to those on our casket.

The above-mentioned engravings are not the only source of information on the projects for caskets by Giardini. Thus far unpublished documents, revealed and soon to be published by the present author, mention a number of other objects which must have been related in form and function to the present casket, such as a group of magnificent silver executed around 1690 on the occasion of the marriage of Marcantonio Borghese, prince of Rossano and Flaminia Spinola, heirs to the head of the Borghese family, prince Giovan Battista Borghese. Various mirrors of large dimensions with silver frames are mentioned as well as silver dressing tables and parcel-gilt dressing boxes. Interestingly, an invoice by Giardini specifically lists the guarnizione di fuori delle Cassette, the decorative silver mounts, including 'fogliami, fiori, mascherini, scudetti' or 'foliage, flowers, masks and cartouches'. The silversmith further specifies in his invoice that the objects inside these boxes were mainly embellished with foliate motifs.

The 'mascherini', which Giardini mentions in his invoice, could refer to mounts of the type on the lid of the present casket, which were in vogue in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Related mounts can be found on designs by the sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini for the Florentine Galleria dei Lavori, which were cast in bronze or silver and applied to the corners of caskets. Further designs of about 1704-1708 by the Sicilian architect Filippo Juvarra, of the celebrated dynasty of silversmiths, depict related models of grotesque and female masks, and are in the Biblioteca Reale in Turin.

It is not unusual for Roman late seventeenth and early eighteenth century furniture or objects to be embellished with small painted panels depicting allegorical scenes which offer allusions to the owner of the object. The present casket must therefore have belonged to a woman, who was almost certainly of high rank and chaste character, as the painted panels depict scenes relating to the goddess Diana.

While precious Florentine caskets of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were widely produced and are relatively well-documented, Roman examples, such as this casket, are extremely rare.

The stylistic features, the quality of the execution and the rarity of this type of object in Rome, confirm the attribution to Giovanni Giardini.