Cristelle Baskins' "Griselda, or The Renaissance Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor in Tuscan Cassone Painting"

Integral to Baskins' analysis of the Griselda tale's visual renditions is an understanding that:

Griselda's exemplary feminine virtue as posed in Tuscan Quattrocento cassoni or wedding chest painting must be located not in reductive textual referents but rather in the strategic interconnections between textual narrative, pictorial narrative and the cultural construction of gender difference.

Baskins discusses the manner in which cassoni themselves formed an important part of nuptial rites such as the public procession which transferred the bride and her trousseau from her father's house to that of the groom. By examining social practices that both impacted Renaissance attitudes towards cassoni as objects themselves along with understandings of themes and subject matter treated on them, she arrives at the assumption that it is no coincidence that the Griselda theme and the Nastagio degli Onesti theme are so prolific in Italian cassone painting.

The trope of the naked bride, or object of conjugal attentions, seems to bear with it important messages about the role of women in economic and social transactions in Renaissance culture. Binding and reciprocal financial commitments were made in the transaction of marriage, in which the cassone figured in a highly visible and public display. Cassone imagery can be considered to constitute not very complicated "lessons" to brides and brides-to-be about how to behave within the constraints of oppressive gender roles.

Baskins explores at length the metaphorical implications of dress and undress, appearance and identity in the Boccaccio text. Given that the visual images of the Griselda tale tend to focus on or culminate in the same scene of Griselda as the nude bride, it is interesting to consider how this state of undress denies a bride her social identity, as class was never more easily coded through dress than at the height of ceremonial costumed splendor of the wedding day. Gualtieri is lauded in the text for being able to discern Griselda's true noble nature despite the appearance of her rough, peasant garments. Griselda's moral constancy despite the many different states of costume is the emphasis of the Boccaccio novella. Yet the visual iconography which abounds refuses to define Griselda through any kind of readable costume by consistently denying her clothing. This results in a pervasive unresolved visual narrative and contributes to consistently multiple readings of Griselda imagery.

Bibliography: Baskins, Cristelle L. "Griselda, or The Renaissance Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor in Tuscan Cassone Painting," Stanford Italian Review X:2 (1991): 153-175.