Antonio Cortelazzo (1819-1903), was born in Vicenza, Italy and trained as a metalworker. He was discovered by the diplomat and archaeologist Sir Henry Austen Layard, (1817-1894) working in relative obscurity producing works of art that looked to the Renaissance as an important source of craftsmanship and aesthetic value. At the Florence International Exhibition (1861), Cortelazzo exhibited a ceremonial sword created for Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy, which later won a medal at the London International Exhibition (1862). For the Paris Exhibition of 1867, Cortelazzo brought an assortment of works, and by the end of the decade he was well-known both in Britain and on the Continent. Soon he was surrounded by numerous influential patrons among them Layard's brother-in-law, the industrialist Sir Ivor Guest, (1835-1914), Vassily Lvovich Naryshkin (1841-1906), gentleman of the bedchamber to the Czar and government secretary at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the antiquarian and lawyer Sir William Drake, (1817-1890), and the Italian Royal Family. His intricate and extraordinarily laborious work - a single bracelet, for example, took up to fifteen months to complete - is included in the collections of the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
An almost identical casket is illustrated in John Culme, Nineteenth Century Silver, London, 1977, p.178. It was executed for Sir William Drake in 1870, and shown at the 1872 London International Exhibition. His reception at the 1872 Exhibition was equally enthusiastic, with critics declaring that "in that combination of that process with purity of design and artistic fancy of ornament... he stands unrivalled" (The Art Journal Catalogue of the International Exhibition, London, 1872, p. 2).
The Teatro Olimpico was designed by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and was commissioned in 1580 by the Vincenza Accademia Olimpica. The theatre is the last work of Palladio and ranks as one of his finest masterpieces. He died shortly after the commencement of works and it continued based upon his sketches and drawings and by 1584 the cavea, loggia and proscenio were completed. Further works were completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, (1548-1616) who produced wonderous wooden interiors designed as five avenues offering an element of perspective. These were intended to be temporary interiors but have remained in place since the first play was produced in 1585.
The initial 'U' followed by an inventory number on the base of this casket probably relates to an inventory prepared for Umberto I, King of Italy in the late 19th century. The initials 'S.M.' stand for 'Sua Maesta' and refer to an inventory entitled 'della Sua Maesta' of Royal works of art drawn up in Turin between 1891-1907.