Lot 3
  • 3

Apollonio di Giovanni

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Apollonio di Giovanni
  • Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, a cassone panel
  • tempera and gold leaf on panel


Collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Château de Ferrières;
Seized by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg from the Chateau de Ferrières (inv. no. BOR 58);
In the holdings of the German Embassy, Paris;
Recovered by the Monuments Men at the Buxheim Monastery, Bavaria, and restituted to the Rothschild family 1946/7 (chest number 134);
From whom most probably acquired directly by the father of the present owner.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This picture is in very good condition in light of its original utilitarian setting which would have exposed it to more potential damage than a traditional easel painting. The support is a single horizontally grained board which has been thinned on the reverse and is inset with three non-original crossbattens. The gilding with its deep punchwork is in excellent condition with a few areas of regilding and retains many painted decorations atop the gold which can have a tendency to flake off over time. Wear includes several long scratches, typical for a cassone, illegible minor vandalism in the sky and three splits in the panel following the wood grain. Details remain intact overall and paint losses, for the most part restored, tend to have occurred where chunkier pigment paints were applied thickly. The dull aged varnish is moderately discolored. The support displays a mild compound vertical convex warp.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Apollonio di Giovanni headed a thriving workshop specializing in the production of luxuriously decorated cassone and spalliere to meet the demands of Florence’s elite.  The artist was much celebrated for his inventive designs of often secular subjects and his treatment of episodes from ancient history, such as that shown in the present panel; these were much sought after by 15th century Florentines, who proudly envisioned themselves as heirs to the democratic values of their Roman forebears.1  Cassoni were decorative chests customarily commissioned at the time of a marriage, and so lavish was their ornamentation that these luxurious items were affordable only to the most affluent of families.  The chests were often carried in pairs as part of the bridal procession, from the house of her father to her new marital home, containing within items of her dowry, such as linens and cloth.  The valuable cassoni were not only intended as extravagant gifts for the initial nuptial celebrations, they were also envisioned as future heirlooms and were typically displayed in the husband’s bed chamber, one the most important and intimate rooms in the home.2 

The chest would be decorated with scenes from ancient history, the Old Testament, or from contemporary literature, such as Petrarch, Boccaccio or Dante.  The episodes depicted were expected to impart a moral message to which the couple and their family should aspire to follow and the subject would be carefully selected to reflect not only the family’s intellectual prowess but also their personal values.   Here, we see the triumphant return of Marcus Furius Camillus, riding in a standing position in the golden chariot; he can be identified by the remains of the inscription above his head, · M · F · CHAMMI[…].  The spelling of “Chammillus” reflects the soft pronunciation of the letter “c” in Florentine dialect and can be seen again in the inscription indicating the Campidoglio at left.  Camillus, a Roman soldier and statesman, was lauded for his four great victories against the Aequi, Volsci, Etruscans and Gauls, and was named “Second Founder of Rome” for his restoration of power following the sacking of Rome in 390 BC.3  Camillus was not only powerful and victorious but was fair, introducing pay for his army.  Conscious of the struggles of the plebeian class, he was an ideal moralistic model for the groom.  The Roman general is preceded in the procession by carriages laden with the spoils of war, a reference to the hopeful prosperity of the newlyweds.  Apollonio represents the city of Rome with a typically idiosyncratic approach to topography, juxtaposing its most famed and recognisable monuments, each labelled in an inscription above, in a charming attempt at persective.  


1.  C. Campbell, Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: the Courtauld wedding chests, teachers’ resource, London 2009, p. 2.
2.  Ibid.
3.  "Marcus Furius Camillus", in Encyclopaedia Britannica, online academic edition, 2013.