This magnificent Florentine casket, richly mounted with polished hardstones in imitation of fruit and gilt-bronzes with ribbon-tied sprays of foliage and exotic dolphin masks, can be firmly attributed to the Grand Ducal workshops, and was probably made under the supervision of Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725), who was director of the workshops under Duke Cosimo III (1670-1723).
The spectacular creations of the Galleria dei Lavori, which was originally founded by Ferdinand I Medici in 1588, were admired in all the courts of Europe, and were often offered as diplomatic gifts by the Medici. Louis XIV even consciously tried to emulate their success when he created the Gobelins workshops in 1667, and imported Italian craftsmen such as Domenico Cucci.
Foggini played a remarkably active role as director of the Medici workshops under Duke Cosimo III, supervising every detail of the works of art produced. This is demonstrated by a fascinating series of drawings by him in the Giornale of the workshops, for caskets and gilt-bronze mounts, executed towards the end of his career (circa 1713-1718), now in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe in the Uffizi, Florence (see González-Palacios, op. cit.,vol. I, pp. 41-4, and vol. II, pp. 54-60, figs. 57-77). His painstaking attention to detail is also revealed by this 1699 item in the accounts: 'da casa sua il S. re Foggini il Modello di terra per formarsi i Capitelli de' 2 pilastri dell'Oriuolo, con detti pilastri di Lapisllazulo...' (González-Palacios op. cit., vol. I, p. 41).
A number of closely related caskets are known, all in distinguished collections, including the following:
-one in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel (González-Palacios op. cit., vol. II, fig. 75)
-one previously in the collection of prince Marc de Beauvau-Craon (1679-1754), acquired while Governor of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under Francesco I (González-Palacios, op. cit., vol. II, figs. 75-6)
-one in the Vyne, Hampshire, where it is recorded as early as 1752, probably acquired by John Chute on the Grand Tour in the 1740's (González-Palacios op. cit., vol. II, fig. 83
-one formerly in the collection of William Beckford, acquired at his sale in 1823 at Fonthill by George Hammond Lucy for Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, where it remains (P. Hewat-Jaboor/B. McLeod et al.,, William Beckford, 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven, 2002, pp. 358-9, cat. 83).