Cassapanca and Throne

As panelling was not common in dwelling houses, from the earliest time the need of wooden backs for chest-seats must have made itself felt. In this way the bench-box came into existence and from this in the kVth century developed the throne by adding arms and building up the back support architecturally; a few decades later came the Cassapanca, that is a box-settle. In the older type of cassapanca the back and arms were of a like height. By this the horizontal is strongly accentuated and the entire effect much more imposing than that of the chest; all the more so as the measurements, both in height and breadth are larger. Placed as it was in the middle of the long wall and clearly proportioned, the architecture of the cassapanca must have conveyed a monumental impression. The oldest among those still in existence, that is, of the XVIth century (fig. 187,188), are of an austere form, with sparse decoration, whose beauty consists in their noble proportions and an apparently easy solution of the task on the part of their makers. For, as the name implies, the cassapanca was a coffer and a seat at the same time; being covered over with cushions and rugs it became the forerunner of the sofa, and from pictures we know that it occasionally did duty as a bed. The step was a natural evolution. The lower curve taken over from the chest was felt as an incongruity, so the straight perpendicular line of the arms was continued to the floor; or, as another expedient, the rhythm of the lower end curve was. repeated on the inner front of the arms (fig. 186). In addition to a modest amount of carving — especially on the front — intarsias laid in small inconspicuous lines, were also used as ornamentation on these severe types of cassapanche. Then in the course of the XVIth century these also grew much more elaborate by enriching them with sculptured decorations. The back was crowned at times, with a strongly defined ornament, a coat of arms or freely conceived figures. The arms were

17. Cupboard and Chest Keys

Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, Berlin

17. Cupboard and Chest Keys

Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, Berlin deeply curved in front and the socles sharply drawn in. In some cases these have a disturbing effect; and compared to the ornamental harmony of like values shown in those of a more simple character, they appear overladen and a deterioration of former good taste. But where the ornamentation — superbly developed — is restricted to some of the parts and held in restraint by the rhythm of the architecture, the cassapanca of the high renaissance symbolizes the ideal in form of this period; the impact of passionate energies (figs. 184,193).

In those days the term throne was not limited to the princely seat with over towering baldachin, but comprised also the chairs of the master and mistress of the / house, distinguished by their size and richness of ornamentation. As opposed to the cassapanca the back of the throne was much higher and naturally built up architectonically. In the XVth century this was res- / tricted to side pilasters (/ with moulded cornices and the centre ornamented with intarsia work. Sometimes the seat is cornered, or finished off quite separately (figs. 172,176) and the proportions between the seat and the back are not, even in ceremonial ones, such as the throne of Filippo Strozzi (now in the Rothschild collection, Paris)1) of that harmony and force-fulness to be found on the few later cassapanche. Here too the concord was first found in the high renaissance. Arms were added, then the pillars above, making a projecting entablature and cornice necessary. In this way the seat was firmly enclosed in an appropriate ]/ frame. Moreover the upper part of the back was divided off by pilasters and like other pieces of furniture ornamented with carving.

The bishop's throne was the progenerator of the throne. In Italy in a half gothic form it had already found its way at the beginning of the renaissance2). It is character- j istic that it had its place, as late as the XVIth century, yj in the bed-chamber, for this served, at the same time, the purpose of a reception room (fig. 41).

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  • Aurora
    How cassapanca were made?
    8 years ago

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