What at first sight looks like an independent painting was originally the front of a ‘cassone’. Made to hold the trousseaus of wealthy young ladies of bourgeois or aristocratic origins, these chests were often decorated with depictions of virtues from antiquity or classical mythology. In this case, we find scenes from the tale of the chaste Lucretia, who took her own life after being raped by Sextus Tarquinius. The personifications of Prudence and (probably) Strength to either side allude to Lucretia – and indirectly to the cassone’s owner as well.
The close bond between the museum and the family of sparkling wine manufacturer Otto Henkell (1869–1929) and his wife, Käthe, dates from the early decades of the twentieth century, when the then director of the Städel, Georg Swarzenski, advised the couple on their art collecting activities. The Henkells’ considerable holdings ranged from medieval to modern art. During the First World War, and again in 1943, this family from Wiesbaden stored parts of its collection in the museum for safekeeping. The heirs donated this valuable cassone panel as a token of their gratitude.