The Trousseau

Gonzaga-Montefeltro-chest_7_custom_base_custom_base_custom_baseNicola here. Last night we had dinner with my mother-in-law and when I admired the beautiful, hand-embroidered table mats, she told me that she had made them in 1961 as part of her trousseau. That made me think; I hadn’t heard that word in such a long time and I have always loved the sound of it. And I also wondered whether people still had a trousseau or if it was another thing that has gone out of fashion.

The definition of “trousseau” is the clothes, linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage but originally the trousseau was the box itself. It’s also known as a hope chest or dowry chest, glory box or “bottom drawer.” It’s this last term that I remember from when I was growing up. My grandmother used to refer to putting things in your bottom drawer for when you got married, but by the time I married in the later 1980s things had changed!

The “cassone” of medieval Europe were large, decorated chests  like the one in teh picture that were extremely valuable in themselves and were a part of the dowry of a bride from a rich and/or aristocratic family. Elizabetta Gonzaga of Mantua and Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, were betrothed in 1486 and married in 1488. In an inventory of Elisabetta’s trousseau corredo, compiled around 25th February 1488 was recorded: ‘Venti forzieri, dieci lavorati d’oro, dieci depinti a la divisa’ (twenty chests, ten gilded, ten painted with heraldic arms/devices" which included the flames of love. This was a trousseau on a very grand scale both in terms of the boxes and their contents!

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