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A Rare Writing Box with a “Gioco del Pallone” Scene

A Rare Writing Box with a “Gioco del Pallone” Scene

This rare and curious writing box is decorated with a beautiful series of engraved and inked bone plaquettes, describing different leisure activities of the high society. It is lined inside with a precious paper, hand-made by the famous Remondini workshop in Bassano del Grappa. On the lid there is a lion hunting scene; on the sides there are six other rectangular plaquettes: four with hunting scenes (two canids face each other in a field, a horse runs in front of a farmhouse; a hunter with a spear faces a dragon; a hunter with a firearm shoots a flock), and two on the front with game scenes (two people and a dog on a balance swing; the old “Gioco del Pallone”).


This game, of ancient Greek-Roman origins, began to be popular in Italy from the sixteenth century on and for more than four hundred years it has been the undisputed protagonist of sports in the courts of Central and Northern Italy, particularly in Tuscany and Marche: in Rome many competitions and demonstrations were organized for the will and delight of the Popes.


Three players per team, battitore, spalla and terzino, had to hit the ball, on the fly or after the first rebound, to send it into the opponent’s field. To do so, players wore a special wooden bracelet with a handle, well illustrated in a very famous 1555 treaty. The bracelet was quite always made of walnut wood and its outer surface had hardwood tips called bischeri.

Antonio Scaino da Salò, Trattato del giuoco della palla, diuiso in tre parti, Venezia, 1555. BRACELET, Walnut, 18th century / BRACCIALE, legno di noce, XVIII secolo.

The popularity of this sport, whose matches were traditionally the subject of great bets, was certainly due also to some famous players (even the future Pope Pius 9th was a ball player). The stories that circulated about them, as often happens, ended up becoming true legends of this game that was for centuries what football is today.

WRITING BOX
Bone inlaid wood
Northern Italy
Early 18th century
Cm 39,5 x 27,5 x 14h

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