Exceptional, Museum Quality, Portuguese, Cedar Cassone, Made For The English Market, Dated ‘1592 October 20’ & Inscribed ‘In God Is Al My Trust’
This fascinating cassone is the most outstanding example from a small group of a rare, late-sixteenth century, cedar model most likely made in the Azores. It has exceptional decoration and authenticity, bears a precise sixteenth-century date, the motto ‘In God Is Al My Trust’, numerous monograms and symbols with a provenance dating back to the eighteenth-century.
This cassone bears the date ‘1592 OCTOBER 20’. It is the only, known, sixteenth century chest to bear a precise date stating date, month and year.
The only other, known, cassone in this group to be dated was one that HHM handled in 2009 which was inscribed ‘1596’ on the inside of the top. Research is underway to establish any connection between this date and the Glendinning family or an historical event.
This cassone is the only known example from this small group bearing an inscription. 'IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST’ is the motto of The Worshipful Company of Pewterers, The Worshipful Company of Brewers, The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers, and there is another City Companies with a similar motto as well as a few distinguished families.
This cassone, unusually, bears numerous monograms and symbols which have been added over time and tell the story of its ownership. This extent of characterization is believed to be unique on a piece of early furniture.
The profuse ornamentation featuring mythical creatures, foliage, hearts and scrollwork on this cassone is the most outstanding of the group. The numerous heart motifs and symbolism demonstrate that this was a marriage chest representing love, union, abundance, guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, alertness, prosperity and wealth.
All the cassones within this small group bear finger joints, fluid, incised ornamentation filled with black mastic depicting mythical creatures, foliage and scrollwork and punchwork. As discussed overleaf they were either commissioned and imported from the Azores or made by craftsmen from the Azores who travelled to England. One of the cassones has an empty shield suggesting it was made in the Azores and exported for sale.
The headquarters of the Provedoria das Armadas, a Crown institution responsible for the outfitting of Portuguese ships, was located on Angra do Heroísmo, on the island of Terceira. At that time this was an important hub for the vessels operating the India Run. “This island of Terceira is very rich, because of the great string of fleets, from the Castilian Indies, from São Tomé and from Brazil, vessels from India, galleons from Mina, and from many parts of the world, that regularly sail out of the port and bar of this city of Angra” . Felgueiras, 2002, note 17, 1611
In the most important source of documentation about the Azores during this period, the work Saudades da Terra (Livro Sexto, 1978, p. 40), Gaspar Frutuoso (1522-1591) refers to the existence of
“forty workshops of blacksmiths and metalworkers and seventy-two [workshops] of carpenters and cabinet-makers … who go all over Spain and to many other places overseas”.
The island was very cosmopolitanism at this time with Flemish, Italian and German influences. Furniture production includes a number of known specimens such as this model of cassone.
There are less than twenty, known, cassones comprising this group mainly in museum collections with a few in private hands. They all share the following characteristics :
Made from cedarwood which is endemic to the Azores.
Constructed with characteristic finger joints, referred to in the Regulations of the Carpenters of Rua das Arcas as an “obra de malhete de castello”, literally a “castle finger joint”
Have similar themes depicting mythical creatures, foliage and scrollwork
Display fluid, naïve, mystical and romantic ormamentation.
Use the same decorative technique using a gouge ad filling in the incisions with a dark paste (wax darkened with ground gallnut).
GLENDINING FAMILY PROVENANCE
Glendining family, Pool Anthony Farm, Tiverton, Devon. The Glendenning family appear to be late-18th century arrivals in Tiverton as the earliest reference is a Devon Glendenning is in a will dated 1790 John Glendenning of Tiverton. They may of course have married into an old Tiverton family which may explain why six out of the eight initials within the stylized shields terminate in ‘L’. Pool Anthony Farm was farmed by the family until recently and, according to the family, the cassone has passed through the family by descent since John Glendenning’s ownership.
In addition to the Glendining, Tiverton provenance, there are related cassones in the V&A collection and others which have passed through the trade which also have Tiverton Devon provenances suggesting that this small group of cassones may be associated with the south-west of England although the reason for this is, as yet, unclear and requires further research.
There may be an association with Tiverton’s prominent role in Devon’s cloth trade, exporting woollen cloth to Europe, including Portugal, and importing items back again but, at this stage, this is speculation.
Privateering ventures were being conducted from the west country in the period when England was at war with Spain and Portugal around the Armada period and given the date of 1592, the chest could have been some kind of prize, but again this requires further research.
‘IN GOD IS ALL MY TRUST’
Three city livery companies use this motto :
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers. There is no trace of a Glendining in the Pewterers Company records going back to 1491. The Pewter Collector’s Club database reveals a William Glendining. In 1726 he was apprenticed to an Edinburgh pewterer (under the Hammermens Guild) called Robert Veitch and is presumed to have been Free in 1733. No pewterers marks have been recorded for William and he is out of business by 1773.
Worshipful Company of Brewers. Research is currently underway.
Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. Research is currently underway.
Worshipful Company of Clothworkers have a similar motto - My Trust Is in God Alone
A few distinguished families also use this motto
Interestingly the families shown in Fairburn’s Crests as using the Motto or variants are all Scottish, Frasers and Grants.
Incidentially ‘In God we trust", is the official motto of the United States of America and of the U.S. state of Florida, although it is highly unlikely that this bears any relevance to this cassone.
The other, known, cassones in this small group do not bear monograms.
The monograms are a rare feature, characterizing this cassone and telling the story of its ownership throughout time.
It is possible that the ‘LG’, ‘IMV’, ‘A’, and ‘IMS’ monograms are merchant’s marks and this is being investigated.
The meaning behind the numerous monograms on this cassone is currently being researched. According to the Glendining family, by family tradition, they relate to Glendining marriages. However only one set of monograms ’LG’ can relate to that surname. Six out of the eight monograms within stylized shields terminate in ‘L’, the other two terminate in ‘E’ although one of these is unfinished.
section 1 section 3 central section section 5 section 7
Top tier within stylized shields : ‘IIIL’ ‘IEL’ ‘HML’ ‘WEL’
All appear to be by different hands
’RF’ in the central section appears to relate to the symbols in the hand and also ‘F’ is repeated below
Grafitti ‘AF’ on far right hand side edge of casssone beside cleats
Middle tier, larger and stand alone : ‘LG’ ‘IMV’ ‘AF’ ‘IMS’
Section 5 - ’A’ appears to relate to the others and ’F’ appears to be by a different hand
Section 6 - ’M’ appears to relate to the others and ‘I’ & ‘S’ appear to be by a different hand
Lower tier within stylized shields : ‘RL’ ‘HL’ ‘HIE’ ‘HIE”
All appear to be by different hands
Section 7 unfinished
The symbols are very unusual and have been added over time.
The only other cassone in this group to bear a symbol is the one handled by HHM in 2009, which had an incised symbol on the inside of the top, see pages 49-50.
They are currently the subject of research. Recusancy is being considered as it is possible that these chests were made for Catholic families.
Left to right:
First section in between the initial ‘LG’
Central section underneath the initials ’RF’
Fifth section in front of the initial ‘A’ which appears of the same date as the others and the initial ‘F’ which appears to be later
Grafitti on far right hand side edge of cassone above ‘AF’
FIRST PANEL (left-to right) INCISED WITHIN STYLISED SCROLLING HEART MOTIFS
‘ IN ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST)
‘ I I L ‘ – top, same hand
‘ L’ , symbol, ‘ G’ – center.
‘ R L ’ – bottom, same hand
SECOND PANEL (left-to right)
‘ GOD ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST) ABOVE A STYLISED HEART COMPRISING THE HEADS OF A PAIR OF MYTHICAL CREATURES GUARDING A HEART SUPPORTED BY ANOTHER PAIR OF FULL BODIED MYTHICAL GUARDIANS BELOW
THIRD PANEL (left-to right) INCISED WITHIN STYLISED SCROLLING HEART MOTIFS
‘ IS ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST)
‘ I E L ‘ - top
‘ I M V ‘ - center
FOURTH, CENTRAL PANEL (left-to right) INCISED WITH A CLASSICAL COLUMN AND METAPHOR OF ABUNDANCE WITH A PAIR OF MYTHICAL CREATURES DRINKING FROM A GUSHING FLOW REPRESENTING LOVE AS DEMONSTRATED BY THE HEART MOTIF AND A SCROLL WITH A PAIR OF MYTHICAL GUARDIANS ABOVE
‘ AL ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST)
‘ R F ‘
symbol and ‘ F ‘
FIFTH PANEL (left-to right) INCISED WITHIN STYLISED SCROLLING HEART MOTIFS
‘ MY ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST)
‘ H M L ‘ - top
Symbol, ‘ A ‘, ‘ F ‘ - center
‘ H I E ‘ - bottom
SIXTH PANEL (left-to right) A REPEAT OF SECOND PANEL REINFORCING THE SYMBOLISM
‘ TRV ‘ (IN GOD IS AL MY TRUST)
ORIGINAL STAND (left-to right), the pair of dogs symbolising a union with the qualities of guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, alertness, and love. The centered pair of pigs or boars symbolising a union of prosperity, wealth and abundance
Full cataloguing available on request.