Artibus et Historiae no. 5 (III)

1982, ISSN 0391-9064

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BRUCIA WITTHOFT - Marriage Rituals and Marriage Chests in Quattrocento Florence

Florentine marriage chests played an important part in the complex marriage rituals of the Quattrocento. They were purchased by the groom's family, sent to the bride to be filled, and then carried through the street in a wedding procession which marked the final step in the legitimization of marriage. This parade had the form of a triumphal procession. It provided an arena for symbolic enactment of hostility between the newly allied families and for the display of family power in the face of community envy or hostility. It resembled folk customs surviving in parts of Europe well into the nineteenth century. The martial and classical subjects of most chests reflect the form and content of the marriage ritual and the education of their purchasers. Florence restricted, to some extent, the actual display of wealth in the ceremony: the painted scenes partly compensate for such restrictions.

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