Give Now

Tag Archives: Renaissance

Object of the Month: May 2023


Walnut and pastiglia

Italian, 15th century

The antique furnishings in the Museum & Gallery collection elevate each visitor’s experience of the artwork on the walls, but the pieces also provide a historical context of the eras and cultures from which the artworks sprang. Indeed, the furnishings are also artworks in themselves.

This is certainly true of the many cassoni (plural of the Italian term for “chests”) in the collection. Like other furnishings in Renaissance homes, the quality of workmanship and materials employed in decorating each cassone convey a great deal about the fashion of their times, the technologies available to craftsmen, and the wealth and social status of their owners.

Unfortunately, much has gone against their survival to our day. Cassoni were used for storage of personal items, opened and closed numerous times over the years. That wear, along with the environment in a home, infestations of termites, dry rot, changes in taste and reversals of family fortunes all conspire against the preservation of these furnishings.

These rich, showy Italian types of chests became widespread in Northern and Central Italy, particularly Tuscany (with a number of the best artists hailing from the cities of Siena and Florence). Weddings served as the occasions for which cassoni were made, and they were in fashion from the 14th-16th centuries, a period spanning the very late-Middle Ages to the beginning and middle of the Renaissance. The oldest surviving cassoni feature primitive panel designs, while later works demonstrate lavish carving, gilding, polychrome, and more complex narrative scenes.

Much like moving trucks, boxes, and barrels accompanying the establishment of new homes, cassoni had a very specific use. Practically speaking, the chests were designed to contain the bride’s dowry and jewels, her family’s contribution to the marriage, and became one of the couple’s most important household furnishings—often at the foot of the bed. They quite literally became a vehicle displaying the status, wealth and sophistication of the intermarrying families, carried in a procession (the domum ductio) from the bride’s parent’s home to her groom’s abode.

Decoratively speaking, cassoni often feature heraldic imagery relating to the families’ crests, and the pictorial panels often contained biblical, mythological, or allegorical imagery which ranged from learned and literary to humorous and light-hearted. Cassoni themselves were so common in the early- and middle-Renaissance that they’re included in Old Master paintings (most familiar may be scenes of the Annunciation in which Mary is seated on or kneeling near a cassone situated at the foot of her curtained bed) and even picture-within-picture vignettes on cassoni panels themselves.

This particular M&G cassone entered the collection in 1957, and its features suggest a date very early after 1400, likely from Tuscany. Unlike many cassoni today, which have the panels removed and presented as separate works of art in their own right, our chest is in good original condition and is structurally sound, despite surviving 600 years of use and change. The lid is still attached with its original hinges and has a simple locking mechanism. While the lid opens and closes easily, the tight fit and years of use have worn off some of the gesso along the top edge.

Composed of thick walnut planks and framing, the chest has a large front center panel decorated with gilt and polychrome over trellis-embossed gesso. Heraldic lions (possibly leopards or even hunting dogs) face each other across the front, and the two vertical end panels blossom with delicate arabesques and outline colored shields, which likely contained familial coats of arms.

Carved, fluted pilasters frame the two pictorial end panels and are topped with vague Corinthian capitals. The primitive-style narrative at the right end is now entirely obscured, but the imagery at the opposite end remains. The subject matter is indistinct and may be biblical or mythological. Most likely, perhaps, it is the myth of Diana (Artemis) and Actaeon, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the bathing goddess is startled by a young hunter. In her anger, Diana turns Actaeon into a stag who is then hunted and killed by his own hounds. This identification seems to make sense of the simplistic representation of forest, pool, a stag’s head (lower right) and a hound in the left background. As an allegory or fable for a young couple, it may emphasize modesty, self control, and consequences for the lack of either or both.

This cassone provides insight into the artistry, fashion, and domestic life of those living in the early years of the Italian Renaissance and is a valuable part of the M&G collection.


Dr. Stephen B. Jones, M&G volunteer



Additional Resources:

The Oxford History of Western Art.  Kemp, Martin, ed.  Oxford University Press, 2000.

Pooley, Eugene.  “Scenes from a Marriage.”



Published 2023

Picture Books of the Past: Bartolommeo Neroni

Enjoy this series of segments highlighting Picture Books of the Past: Reading Old Master Paintings, a loan exhibition of 60+ works from the M&G collection. The exhibit has traveled to The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. and the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida.

In contrast to the large altarpieces commissioned by churches, the Tondo’s circular format was well suited for private homes.

Holy Kinship

Holy Kinship

Vincent Sellaer, called Geldersman

Below the image, click play to listen.

Object of the Month: March 2023

Majolica Vases

Glazed terracotta

Italian, 16th or 17th century

Earthenware that has been coated with a white glaze and then decorated with other pigmented glazes was first made in Africa around the 6th century. By the 13th century multi-colored designs were possible. A final clear glaze added luster and insured the pieces were watertight. Large quantities of decorative earthenware were produced in Africa and Spain and passed through ports on the island of Majorca on their way to Italy.  Thinking the colorfully painted pieces had originated in Majorca, Italians called them majolica.

By the 16th century, techniques for producing majolica had reached Italy. As would be expected, Italian ceramicists stretched the artistic limits of the medium. Although many early majolica pieces were purely functional and received little decoration, others were elaborately decorated and served as status symbols. In wealthy homes large collections of vibrant dishes, bowls, platters, pitchers, jars, and vases were displayed and used to impress guests.

However, many Renaissance majolica containers were used for storage. In the kitchen, these useful jars stored liquids, grains, nuts, dried fruits and the like. What an apothecary of the period might keep in one can only be imagined. Generally larger majolica containers did not have lids. They usually have a short neck, and the opening has an everted edge, allowing the jar to be covered with cloth, paper, or leather and tied in place over the mouth with a string or strap around the jar’s neck.

Smaller Renaissance majolica containers were rectangular boxes or cylinders with concave sides. The lack of handles permitted them to be stored close together on a shelf, and their shape allowed handling without slipping. Larger vessels were generally spherical or, like M&G’s, ovoid with the smaller end toward the bottom. Today these larger containers are often called majolica vases, though their original purpose wasn’t decorative.

Smaller majolica vases could be picked up by putting hands under the wide part of the vase. M&G’s 15½-inch tall and 13-inch diameter vases are considered large. Each vase weighs nearly 12 lbs. and holds about 4.5 gallons of liquid. A full vase would weigh nearly 50 lbs., which would require considerable strength and balance to lift and carry.

M&G’s Majolica Vases have a 5-inch diameter opening. Although the rounded lips would aid in pouring, the mouth is wide enough for a hand or a ladle to access the contents.

The decoration on M&G’s vases includes white, daisy-like flowers with a blue ring around the darker center.  These flowers with scrolling foliage (sometimes protruding through the flower) and swirling, plume-like shapes are common on Italian Renaissance containers. The blue background would have been painted after the design of the floral decoration. The short, irregular white curves were inscribed into the blue areas before it was fired. Because of the stability of the pigments and the clear glaze, the colors are still vibrant.

Prior to the 1800s few European ceramics have an identifying mark or a signature, and it is extremely rare for any Italian Renaissance piece to be signed or dated. Documented provenance would help determine age and origin or perhaps a design with a family crest or istoriato (having a portrait or a historical or biblical image). However, typical of most such pieces, M&G’s vases lack marks and embellishments, and their provenance extends to just under 100 years.

The opinions of museum curators and experts which specialize in the genre are the primary remaining source for information. M&G’s vases have been examined by experts, who believe the vases were made in Sicily during the late 16th or early 17th century.

Renaissance majolica is strong, but it can easily be broken. For a pair of large vases to have endured 400 years is remarkable, especially surviving their practical role and years spent in cellars and storerooms. Today museums proudly display glued-together objects of Italian Renaissance majolica, even if they are missing sections of the piece. M&G’s large and unbroken Majolica Vases are a treasure indeed.


William Pinkston, retired educator and M&G volunteer


Special thanks to students from the Honors Geometry classes of Bob Jones Academy for determining the vase volume and weight.



Published 2023

Object of the Month: November 2022

Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and an Angel

Tempera on panel

Pseudo Pier Francesco Fiorentino

Florentine, active late 15th century

In the 15th century, Florence enjoyed a robust cultural and economic environment. One prominent idea of the era was the rediscovery of the circle and the variety of ways it was used. It may be somewhat humorous in our current culture to recognize that a simple shape could dominate life, but the circle did.

The Renaissance was about advancement—an era full of discoveries. Dias, da Gama, Columbus, and Vespucci found places previously unknown through geographical exploration of our planet, understood then to be round instead of flat. Rediscovery of Greek and Roman mathematical perfections included the circle. The shape was incorporated into architecture in a variety of public and private buildings in Florence. The circle became a symbol of God, the universe, and heaven. Between late 1430 to early 1450, artists began using the circle as part of their painting design in a format called tondo, the Italian word for round.

As a spiritual symbol, the circle became a means of representing the patron saint of Florence, John the Baptist. He was often depicted as a youth, an example to the young people of Florence. Before the Renaissance, paintings focused on individual depictions of saints and biblical characters; however, artist Fra Filippo Lippi is credited with being one of the first to paint John the Baptist together with Mary and the infant Christ in the 1450s. Additionally, Lippi was the first to paint the figures worshipping the Christ Child in adoration as seen in his work, the Annalena Adoration in the Uffizi, Florence. This new subject was the beginning of a popular focus in the late 1400s and well suited to the tondo format.

Filippo Lippi had a bustling workshop with many apprentices including Pesellino and Botticelli. As a favorite of the Medici, Lippi fulfilled numerous private and public commissions, including a Medici tondo now in the National Gallery. While Botticelli is credited with making the round format popular in the late 1400s, Lippi’s studio and apprentices created tondi and essentially mass-produced paintings depicting Mary and John the Baptist adoring the Christ Child to satisfy the public demand.

The Medici family was partly responsible for the popularity of tondi because these round paintings became not only a status symbol of wealth, but also were of spiritual significance in private, devotional settings. To have an object of art that the Medici possessed was a means of connection to them. Tondi existed in the homes of wealthy Florentines and public spaces and soon became popular in other Italian cities. They were not commonly used in churches since they were smaller.

The creator of M&G’s tondo, Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and an Angel, is enigmatic. Scholars have been unable to attribute a specific artist, but the work seemed influenced by Pier Francesco Fiorentino yet not painted by him. Hence, the designation of “Pseudo.” However, careful study of the work indicates that its construction predates the surge in popularity of tondi in the 1480s. M&G’s painting is one of the earliest surviving tondi produced after Fra Filippo Lippi’s initial exploration of the adoration subject—a strong representative of the Florentine tondo tradition.

The painting’s details include a unicorn in the background, which is a symbol of Mary’s purity along with the white lily. Her adoring the Christ Child in a country landscape setting may be based on St. Bridget’s Revelations. The halos reveal the influence of naturalism prevalent in the Renaissance style. While the halos of Mary and the angel are typical of the flat Gothic style, the foreshortened, elliptical halo of John the Baptist is shown from a three-dimensional perspective.

As a “window into heaven,” M&G’s tondo has delighted viewers since entering the collection in 1951—the museum’s inaugural year.


John Good, M&G volunteer


Published 2022

Collection on View

View Works from the Museum & Gallery Collection

While the Museum & Gallery is closed to the public and unable to offer public viewing hours, we continue removing the collection in preparation for moving to a new building and new location. Meanwhile, you can still see selected paintings and objects on display in these campus locations:


Gustafson Fine Arts Center: Atrium

Public Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 AM-5 PM or by tour request

Luther’s Journey: Experience the History is a focus exhibition featuring paintings from M&G’s internationally respected Old Master collection.  Take a closer look at the man, Martin Luther, by understanding more about his life’s circumstances during the Renaissance (1500s)—a plague circling Europe, the scarcity and inaccessibility of books, the normalcy of illiteracy, and the exacting authority of church and state. Luther’s life journey reminds us that ordinary people can be used by God to inspire extraordinary and enduring change.


War Memorial Chapel

Open only by appointment or tour request

The Benjamin West Collection
The seven, monumental paintings that hang in the War Memorial Chapel constitute the largest assemblage today of works by Benjamin West, the father of American painting.


Mack Library

Public Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM-5 PM

View several Medieval and Renaissance objects from M&G’s collection, including a 16th-century Antiphonary, a 15th-century keepsake box made of bone, and more!

Homeschool Days Activity Sheets: 2022-2023

Below are the Activity Sheets for M&G’s The Renaissance Revealed series for Homeschool Days 2022-2023 academic year.


September: Giotto: Gifted Artist

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

October: Brunelleschi: Engineer of the Impossible

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

December: The Medici: Patrons of the Renaissance

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

February: Martin Luther: Fervent Reformer

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

March: Michelangelo: Illustrious Master

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

April: Shakespeare: The Playful Playwright

Click HERE to access the elementary pdf.  Click HERE to access the Middle School pdf

Object of the Month: January 2022

Narratives from the Early Life of Christ

Wool tapestry

Franco-Flemish, c. 1480

In Western church tradition, celebrating the twelve days of Christmas begins December 25 and culminates on January 6 with the Feast of Epiphany on Twelfth Night. According to The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine (Archbishop of Genoa in 1275), this day commemorates four special events in the life of Christ: the adoration of the Magi, and later the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, the miracle at Cana of the water turned into wine, and the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish.

Scripture is unclear about the dates of these four events; however, chapter two of Matthew’s Gospel recounts that the wise men from the East came not thirteen days after Christ’s birth, but some two years. The Magi followed the star to Roman-occupied Jerusalem, where they visited King Herod hoping to learn of the promised Messiah’s birth. Unaware and troubled by the news, Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes to discover Christ’s birthplace, which was cited by the prophet Micah as Bethlehem in the land of Judah. Herod directed the noble travelers and requested they return to let him know where the young king was so that he too could worship.

The Magi found and worshipped the Christ child and offered Him three generous gifts, but they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and departed a different way. Joseph too was advised by an angel to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from Herod’s murderous jealousy—his massacre of innocent male children two years and younger.

Possibly handcrafted by a guild weaver in Tournai, France in 1480, M&G’s tapestry is roughly 4.5 feet high by 11 feet long. It tells a visual narrative of three scenes following the Magi’s remarkable visit: Herod ordering the murder of the children, the massacre of the innocents, and the family’s flight to Egypt.

Tapestries have a long history dating back to Egyptian and Roman times. However, from the Middle Ages up to the French Revolution, weaving flourished in France and Flanders as an outgrowth of interest from both the church and wealthy nobility. Tapestries were once functional, beautiful, and personal—full of purpose and reflecting the beliefs, skill, economics, and status of the times.

In the 15th century, tapestries often focused on heroes, particularly the Nine Heroes of pagan history (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar), Jewish history (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus), and Christian history (King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey de Bouillon). However, in this age of chivalry there was a parallel focus on nine heroines including the “greatest lady of them all,” Christ’s mother Mary. M&G’s Narratives from the Early Life of Christ is one of a series of six tapestries depicting the life of the virgin. In 1499 Leon Conseil, who was Chancellor of the Cathedral of Bayeux, cannon of Arry, and secretary of the bishops of Bayeux (Louis de Canossa and vicar general of Cardinal de Prie) gave the tapestry series and a pension for their care to the Cathedral of Bayeux—a church dedicated to Mary and one of France’s greatest and most notable cathedrals.

Phyllis Ackerman in Tapestry, the Mirror of Civilization explains the import and placement of such a gift, “The feudal devotion to a patron was equally practiced by the towns, for each had its patron saint to whom the Cathedral or finest church was usually dedicated, and just as a knight would trace his descent to his hero, so a city often attributed, if not its foundation, at least important moments in its early history to its saint. The lives of these saints were rendered into tapestry to decorate the church, usually on long, horizontal bands to hang around the choir.”

According to the 1901 Normandy Annals, M&G’s tapestry survived the French Revolution and still remained with the Cathedral (hanging in the library) until the city of Bayeux determined to deaccess it. It then passed through multiple collectors including John Pierpont Morgan, Georges Hoentschel, Clarence H. Mackay, and French & Co. before joining M&G’s collection in 1960.


Erin R. Jones, Executive Director


Published 2022

Object of the Month: September 2021

Prie Dieux


16th century, Italian

When one thinks of prayer, furniture is not usually the first thing to come to mind. In Matthew 6:5-6, Christ encouraged making requests in prayer privately, rather than praying to be noticed publicly. However, a common piece of furniture constructed for the purpose of prayer was manufactured during the Renaissance and is still being made today. It is known as a prie-dieu, derived from French for “praying to God.” This special furnishing serves the same purpose as a prayer desk and a prayer chair.

M&G currently has two prie-dieux in its collection. These may have been used in a church, cathedral, or even a home. As a common piece of liturgical furniture in the Roman Catholic Church, they are still in use for worship, weddings, and funerals. When President Kennedy was lying in state, prie-dieux were in the same room.

Both of M&G’s Prie Dieux are from Italy, dating to the early Renaissance in the late 15th to mid-16th centuries.  Ornately carved walnut adds to the richness of their finish. One has a hinged kneeler with a raised panel door in the middle and a small drawer at the top. The other’s “lectern top” sits on “two powerful scroll consoles edged with gouge carving in a scale effect; the base terminates in small posts with pine-cone finials.” However, “the most striking feature is the festoon suspended from the top” with “fruit-and-leaf forms enclosing a winged angel head.”

Additionally, two paintings in M&G’s collection include prie-dieux. Both pictures highlight the importance of the Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel came to Mary to inform her that she had found grace in the sight of God. She would be privileged to bear the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christ Himself would become the only means of access to God the Father—through prayer. As explained in I Timothy 2:5-6, this direct access was accomplished through His passion and resurrection, which is symbolized by an open door on the prie-dieu. Fellowship with God in heaven is available to all people.

St. Gabriel the Archangel and The Virgin Annunciate by Venetian Reniassance painter, Francesco Montemezzano, were formerly one complete canvas (with one other M&G painting of God the Father depicted with a group of angels). These works were separated into three sections, which are all in M&G’s collection. The artist depicts Mary kneeling at her prie-dieu as she converses with Gabriel, who is seen on the opposite canvas.

The Altar Wings with Scenes from the Birth of Christ was created by an unknown Netherlandish artist. These wood panel paintings were completed during the same century as the Montemezzano canvases—roughly mid to late 1500s. Once the hinged doors of a larger altarpiece, these special panels hid the interior artistic scenes, which would be opened for special services or events. The interior paintings were in vivid color; however, the exterior doors like these were usually painted in gray tones, known as grisaille. This technique suggested a sculptural effect. Gabriel the archangel is positioned on the left panel facing Mary on the right. Mary is depicted with a lily (symbolic of her purity and Christ’s future resurrection) and a prie-dieu (on the far-right edge).

Prie-dieux are found in museum collections around the world—both as furniture and within the pictorial settings of Old Master paintings. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has a prie-dieu closely resembling one of M&G’s. The National Gallery’s Venetian Annunciation depicts Mary sitting at a prie-dieu.

Prayer is more often discussed than practiced. Fortunately, the opportunity exists for not only God’s children to approach their Heavenly Father, but anyone seeking His help—with or without a prie-dieu.


John Good, Security Manager


Published 2021


Further Resources:

Aronson, Joseph, Furniture in the Bob Jones University Collection

Hiebert, D. Edmond, Working With God Through Prayer


Object of the Month: June 2021

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon

Oil on Canvas

Jacopo Robusti, called Il Tintoretto

Venetian, 1519-1594

Allegory of Wisdom

Oil on Canvas

Marietta Robusti, called La Tintoretta

Venetian, c. 1554- c.1590


Jacopo Robusti, better known by his nickname, Il Tintoretto, was one of the most sought after and prolific painters in sixteenth-century Venice. He never lacked for commissions throughout his life and produced some of the city’s most famous canvases. The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon from the Museum & Gallery collection is one of his early works.

Jacopo’s success was in part due to his bustling family workshop which included two of his sons and Marietta his daughter, painter of M&G’s Allegory of Wisdom. In an article on Marietta, Louise Arizzoli points out that “Our reading of Renaissance masters as individual geniuses that started with Vasari’s Lives, sheds a negative light on those collaborators who remained in the shadow of the leading artist. These family workshops have however to be understood as teamwork, in which every member had specific responsibilities in order to ensure the quality of the commissions. Therefore, it is particularly difficult for us now to recognize individualities, as it was not the aim of the workshop to enhance individual style but to produce a certain style—that of Tintoretto” [Italics added]. This is one reason that apart from a small number of religious paintings and the Self-Portrait above (now in the Uffizi) few works are definitively assigned to Marietta. In addition, her talents were a close match to her father’s. This is especially evident in the figural details and similarities of brushwork and coloration in the two M&G works showcased.

These mysteries of attribution are not only on-going but truly fascinating.  For example, many scholars believe that several of Marietta’s works may simply have been incorporated into her father’s oeuvre.  For example, Old Man and a Boy (Kunsthistorisches Museum) was considered one of Jacopo’s best portraits, but in 1920 Duncan Bull, a curator at the Rijksmuseum, reassigned the attribution to Marietta on the basis of the ‘M’ signature discovered on the work. (The ‘M’ is in the lower right of canvas beside the chair arm.) However, there are still scholars reluctant to accept this re-attribution.

Two other important biographers detailing Tintoretto’s (and by extension Marietta’s) career are Raffaele Borghini (1537-1588) and Carlo Ridolfi (1594-1658). Both writers note that Marietta was not only exceptionally talented but also her father’s favorite. In his Le Maraviglie dell’Arte Ridolfi writes:

Marietta Tintoretto, then, lived in Venice, the daughter of the famous Tintoretto and the dearest delight of his soul. He trained her in design and color, whence later she painted such works that men were amazed by her lively talent. Being small of stature she dressed like a boy. Her father took her with him wherever he went and everyone thought she was a lad. She made a portrait of Jacopo Strada, the antiquarian of Emperor Maximilian, who presented it to his majesty as a rare work, whence the emperor, charmed by her valor, made enquiries about her of her father. Philip II, the King of Spain, and Archduke Ferdinand also asked him about her. However, Tintoretto was satisfied to see her married to Mario [Marco] Augusta, a jeweler, so that she might always be nearby, rather than be deprived of her, even though she might be favored by princes, as he loved her tenderly […] When she died her father wept bitterly, taking it as the loss of a part of his own inner being.

Marietta died four years before her father around 1590. The exact cause of her death is uncertain, but many believe she died in childbirth. Regardless, Ridolfi’s account of the close personal and professional relationship between the two would blur “into the myth of a young and talented woman painter who died too soon, leaving her father heart-broken.” We do know that Jacopo’s output began to fall off after his daughter’s death—whether because of grief or because of the loss of collaborative talent cannot be known. In any case, she would eventually become a muse for 19th century painters. Léon Cogniet’s Tintoretto Painting his Dead Daughter is perhaps the most famous among these Romantic paintings.


Donnalynn Hess, Director of Education


Published in 2021