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Frist Art Museum Presents Exhibition of Marriage Ritual Objects from the Italian Renaissance

Frist Art Museum Presents Exhibition of Marriage Ritual Objects from the Italian Renaissance

Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy November 16, 2018–February 18, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (October 9, 2018)—The Frist Art Museum presents Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy, an exhibition that offers an intimate view of life in the Renaissance through art commissioned to celebrate marriage and family. Drawing on a selection of outstanding marriage chests, panels, and a variety of domestic objects belonging to the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy, the exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from November 16, 2018, through February 18, 2019.
Beginning in the late 1300s, cassoni—elaborately painted and gilded marriage chests—were an important part of marriage rituals and among the most prestigious furnishings in the house or palace of the newlyweds. Usually commissioned in pairs and shaped like ancient sarcophagi, the chests were an expression of the family’s wealth and position in society. They were conspicuously paraded through the streets from the bride’s family home to her husband’s home—a clear statement of a new economic and political alliance between elite families—and then later used in the home for seating and storage. Cassoni are considered antecedents to the hope chests popular in America until the middle of the last century.

“The chests’ function, craftsmanship, and decorative techniques, and the significance and sources of the imagery are at the heart of the exhibition,” says Frist Art Museum curator Trinita Kennedy. “We are excited to present several rare complete cassoni, as well as fragments, which include lavish wood panels that usually depict themes of fidelity and love as well as narrative scenes drawn from history and mythology.”

Displayed alongside the chests is an array of other art objects also made for the home, including devotional paintings, pottery, and textiles.

Exhibition Credit

This exhibition was organized by Contemporanea Progetti with the Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy.

Public Programs

Friday, November 16                                        Opening Night Lecture for Life, Love & Marriage Chests 6:30 p.m.                                                         in Renaissance Italy: Art, Marriage, and Family in the  
Frist Art Museum Auditorium                               Florentine Renaissance Palace presented by Jacqueline
Free                                                                  Marie Musacchio, professor of art, Wellesley College

Although we live in an era when vast sums of money are lavished on wedding festivities, we are not unique: in Renaissance Florence, middle- and upper-class families spent enormous amounts on marriages that were intended to establish or consolidate the status and lineage of one or both of the respective families. This lecture explores the art and objects—not only the painted wedding chests, but also the paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry, clothing, and household items—associated with marriage and family life in Renaissance Florence. The rituals of marriage, birth, and death required these objects, and by examining them we can examine the life cycle of the Florentine Renaissance family.

Jacqueline Marie Musacchio earned her PhD from Princeton University. Her research focuses on the role of material culture in Italian Renaissance life, encompassing everything from sculpted portrait busts and domestic devotional images to metalwork bridal girdles and embroidered widows’ veils. She is the author of The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy and Art, Marriage, and Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace. She has contributed to numerous exhibitions as a catalogue author or curator, most recently Art and Love in Renaissance Italy.

Thursday, December 6                                      Curator’s Tour: Life, Love, and Marriage Chests in
Noon                                                                Renaissance Italy
presented by Trinita Kennedy,
Meet at the exhibition entrance                        curator
Free for members; admission required for not-yet-members

A Members-Only Curator’s Tour will be held on Friday, December 7, at noon.

Cassoni, or marriage chests, were an important part of marriage rituals in Renaissance Italy. Lavishly decorated with biblical and mythological imagery, these chests offer insight into the rituals of Renaissance society. Join Trinita Kennedy as she explores how cassoni and other domestic objects promoted values of love, marriage, and family life.

Sponsor Acknowledgment

This exhibition is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351,   
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311,


About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s newly renovated Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:009:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:005:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit