Writing desk decorated with scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses Moralized (Escritorio decorado con escenas de la Metamorfosis de Ovidio moralizado)

Writing desk decorated with scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses Moralized (Escritorio decorado con escenas de la Metamorfosis de Ovidio moralizado)

About 1600
Artist
Unknown
Country
Spain
cabinet
Wood with ivory and metal inlay
Gift of the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art, made possible by the Renchard Family
1990.314
Unknown Artist, Writing Desk Decorated with Scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses Moralized. Spain, about 1600. Wood with ivory and metal inlay, 11 1/2 x 21 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Gift of the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art, made possible by the Renchard Family; 1990.314
Dimensions
height: 11.5 in, 29.2100 cm; width: 21.75 in, 55.2450 cm; depth: 9.75 in, 24.7650 cm
Inscription
none
Department
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Collection
Latin American Art

This chest was made in Spain around 1600 and likely exported to South America during the colonial period with a shipment of household goods. It was collected in Colombia or Ecuador in the early 1900s by Daniel Casey Stapleton before being generously donated to the Denver Art Museum in 1990. Lock-boxes such as this were often used to store luxury goods and jewelry. 

The inlaid ivory plaques are incised with scenes from sixteen separate stories from Ovid’s epic narrative poem, the Metamorphoses. First written in Latin in the early first century CE, the Metamorphoses has remained one of the most popular works of classical mythology. During the late-medieval ages and early modern period, it was translated into numerous languages across Europe, where it became highly influential, inspiring scholars, writers, and artists alike. The intricately incised scenes on this chest are based on woodcut prints attributed to the Italian illustrator, Giovanni Antonio Rusconi (ca. 1520-1587). Rusconi’s prints were used to illustrate several Italian translations of Ovid’s work, including multiple editions of Lodovico Dolce’s Le Trasformationi, first published in Venice in 1553, and Francesco Bardi’s Ovidio Politico Istorico Morale, printed in 1674, 1688, and 1696. Each ivory panel illustrates a different mythological narrative, including some stories frequently represented in European art and culture, such as the flight of Daedalus and Icarus, Hercules wrestling the river god Achelous, and the Rape of Europa, found on the exterior of the fall front.

--Julie Wilson Frick, 2017; Sabena Kull, 2017-18 Mayer Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art

Known Provenance
Gifted 26 December 1990 by the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art, made possible by the Renchard Family, to the Denver Art Museum. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.