Lockplate and hasp

c. 1550–1580
Gilt bronze and iron
Architectural elements
8 3/4 × 6 3/4 × 1 in. (22.23 × 17.15 × 2.54 cm) On mount: 12 × 9 1/2 × 5 in. (30.48 × 24.13 × 12.7 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
Wendy and Emery Reves Collection - Library, Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Since antiquity, the Italians have preferred marble and bronze to iron. History has preserved ancient Roman bronze keys, but their more corrosive iron locks have disintegrated. This beautiful lockplate, enriched with Renaissance motifs in relief, relates more to sculpture and jewelry than to blacksmithing. Before gilding, the lockplate was cast from a mold and then the details sharpened by a chisel.

On the hasp is a relief of an oval coat-of-arms under a standing female figure who holds an overflowing shell on her head. The plate is relieved with military trophies and C-scroll cartouches, one of which contains the keyhold, and with two scarf-draped seated female figure whose poses ultimately derive from Michaelangelo's Dawn. The right and left borders contain ewers, grotesque masks, and shields. Nails with gilt fleur-de-lis-heads once held the four corners in place.

This superb lockplate was intended for use on a type of domed marriage chest ("cassone") popular in late 16th-century Italy. At present, there are over forty examples of this casting known in collections around the world, but the exact origin of this group has eluded scholars for decades. The mannerist style of the figure of Abundance on the hasp suggests the French Fontainebleau School. The trophies of arms, which were popular on Milanese and Genoese palace architecture, have directed others to these cities as possible places of manufacture. Nevertheless, the fact that the majority of the identifiable coats of arms are those of Roman families indicates that this lockplate design was most likely executed in Rome. Further, the mingling of numerous stylistic sources in this piece also suggests a roman origin since the Eternal City was a confluence of international styles in the 16th century.

This example survives with its iron locking mechanism on the back, and it has acquired a mellow patina from much handling. The coat of arms is believed to be that of the Gras-Préville family of Italy and southern France.

Adapted from

  • Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1985), 176.

  • Dallas Museum of Art, Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 15.