Marriage chest

Zurich(?), ca. 1490
Oak carcase and carving
height 57 cm, width 177 cm, depth 64 cm

3525px x 3221px
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Chests from the Late Gothic period that declare their secular function in the programme of their imagery are rare. The front of this chest is decorated with six round arches with ogee tracery carved in low relief: the two outer arches are filled with sprays of flowers and leaves; the two innermost ones display the coats of arms of the Eastern Swiss house of the von Brandis (on the left) and of the Zurich family of the von Ottikon (on the right), making its production for a wedding probable. In the arches in between are represented Delilah cutting Samson's hair, from the Old Testament, and St Jerome taming the lion; as the nearby scrolls once must have explained, these two scenes probably allude to married life. Stylistic comparison with the carvings on the choir stalls in the church of St. Peter in Basle has led recently to the suggestion that the woodcarver Ulrich Bruder, who had immigrated from Otwyl on Lake Constance in 1495, was responsible for the chest. The chest was published with an illustration as early as 1868. Its purchase by the Museum prevented its imminent disposal on the Paris art market.

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