Comparing Bronze Treasure Chests
Forrest Fenn's Bronze Treasure Chest Versus Similar Chests
Forrest Fenn's bronze treasure chest is a unique piece of art, but did you know are several other bronze treasure chests which are very similar to Fenn's chest? In his Thrill of The Chase book, Forrest Fenn wrote, "An excited antique scholar said the chest was probably a Romanesque Lock Box that dated to about 1150 AD." This estimated date of origin is the earliest known out of all of these similar bronze chests.
These chests embody a similar ornate style, box design, and forged bronze construction. The chest backgrounds and origins vary from museum donations to custom, modern art commissions to replicas modeled specifically after Fenn's Treasure Chest. They give us additional information of the reliefs and artwork found on Fenn's bronze treasure chest.
Bronze Treasure Chest Artwork, Decorations, and Reliefs
These bronze chests display a very specific type and theme of artwork which appear to be depictions of scenes similar to the French Le Roman de la Rose poem. The origin of the poem stems from medieval times in the 13th century (1201 to 1300 AD) when French poets Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun passionately composed the accounts of about a lovers quest to win the affection of his woman. The focus of the poem and related artistry is the romantic depiction of chasing love and the constant pursuit of desire.
The main focus of these decorations and reliefs include the "Castle of Love" with maidens atop the walls in the upper portions of the scene while knights fight below or attempt to scale the castle walls on ladders from the lower portions of the scene. There are also vines and roses involved with maidens also seen throwing flowers and roses down upon the knights.
The romantic scenes are depicted in Gothic art styles with foundations in 12th century Romanesque art. Many objects of that era boast similar reliefs and craftsmanship including caskets, jewelry boxes, mirror cases, and chests. Common mediums include bronze, ivory, stone, and woven tapestries. One famous casket featuring this art style is the Casket with Scenes of Romances housed in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
Forrest Fenn's Bronze Treasure Chest
Forrest Fenn's bronze treasure chest showcases a similar art style to the written imagery found in the Le Roman de la Rose poem. The chest lid, front, back, and side panels feature maidens on top of the walls of the Castle of Love and knights scaling the walls on ladders below.
These chest pictures were taken in Forrest Fenn's studio by photographer Addison Doty of Santa Fe, NM before the chest was hidden in the Rocky Mountains. They were later included in the Forrest Fenn's book, The Thrill of The Chase. The multiple versions of the photos included here are from direct scans of the pictures in the book as well as the digital photographs.
In interviews Forrest Fenn stated his bronze chest weights about 22 pounds and has dimensions of 10"x10"x5".
(Click Image For Detailed View)
The Detroit Museum Bronze Treasure Chest
Did you know there is a bronze chest in a museum in Michigan which is almost identical to the bronze treasure chest Forrest Fenn hid his gold in? This look-a-like bronze chest is currently in the care of the Detroit Institute of Arts and has raised a lot of questions in the Fenn treasure community. Where did this chest come from? How was it made? It this the same chest as the Fenn treasure chest? Why are they so similar?
The questions surrounding this chest are many. We do know the museum chose to not publicly display the chest and rather prefers to keep it in storage. The curators have also become rather annoyed with Fenn treasure hunters asking about it, so they haven't provided much other information about it other than what is listed below.
About The Detroit Bronze Chest
This similar bronze treasure chest is labeled as a European styled "casket" dating from the late 19th century (1801-1900 AD). Museum curators believe it is a recreation of a 14th century casket. It weighs seventeen and one-half pounds (17.5lb) and is constructed of bronze.
The Detroit chest dimensions are 5.75"x9.75"x9.75". The chest was donated to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. John L. Booth. It was added to the museum's collection around 1967. The bronze chest's accession number (museum catalog ID) is F67.50, and it is part of the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts (Dec Arts) Collection.
About John L. Booth
John Lord Booth (June 13, 1907 - November 11, 1994) was the son of Ralph Harmon Booth. He was born in Detroit in 1907 and attended Yale University in 1928. He was a prominent figure in the Detroit art community. He is known for his involvement in his father's Ralph H. Booth Corporation as well as founding various media companies including the WJLB radio station in Detroit. He married his wife, Lousie Preston Camper in 1994, and resided in the regency style mannor at 226 Provencal Rd, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236.
Reference Links About John L. Booth:
The Detroit Bronze Treasure Chest VS The Fenn Chest
Based on the reported chest weight, this bronze treasure chest is lighter than the Fenn treasure chest. Weighing 17.5 pounds, it is around 4.5 pounds lighter than the 22 pound Fenn chest. Let's check out the pictures from the museum's website and try to identify the differences between the those pictures and the pictures Forrest Fenn provided of the bronze chest he hid somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. See this casket on the DIA website.
Several Differences From Fenn's Chest:
- This chest is lined with what looks like red velvet while Fenn's chest is lined with an oak looking wood
- The bronze finish on this chest appears to be glossier and cleaner looking (like its been sealed or clear coated) than the rawer bronze finish found on Fenn's chest which creates a more natural, aged bronze patina look
- The detailing on the gargoyle found on front handle and clasp also appears to be less-clearly defined as the Fenn chest
- The front key hole pattern on this chest also appears to be different than Fenn's chest as Fenn's is more roughed out on the top of the hole while this chest's key hole has a more beveled inner edge look
(Click Image For Detailed View)
Other Replicas and Recreations of The Fenn Chest
There are also fan-made replica chest recreations of the bronze Fenn treasure chest. One chest recreation is produced by Vinnetti's Gallery and Foundry in Nashville, TN. These Forrest Fenn Commemorative Treasure Chests were produced in a limited run of one-hundred chests.
The Vinnetti chest dimensions are 10.375"x10.375"x5.75" and weigh 42 pounds. The chests are hand carved, serialized, and cast in bronze at the Vinnetti foundry using the "lost wax method". They are also equipped functioning lock and key. The inner chest is lined with wood, and Forrest Fenn's treasure poem is inscribed on the bottom of the chests.
They were produced in five different runs with different polishes and patinas. The runs are identified by the lining color in the chests' shipping cases.
- Cowhide marks bronze chests 1 thru 4 which feature a super silk polish and custom mottle/custom cupric patina
- Brown marks bronze chests 5 thru 10 which feature a smooth silk polish and custom mottle patina
- Black marks bronze chests 11 thru 20 which feature a fine satin polish and liver/cupric patina
- Royal (blue) marks bronze chests 21 thru 50 which feature a crude plus polish and liver/cupric patina
- Burgundy marks bronze chests 51 thru 100 which feature a crude polish and liver patina
You can learn more about these replica chests on the Vinnettis website.
(Click Image For Detailed View)
Making A Bronze Treasure Chest
Are you curious to see how Forrest Fenn's treasure chest was made? Stephen Maxon from Max Cast has a YouTube video of him crafting and forging a bronze treasure chest similar to the one Forrest Fenn hid as a custom foundry commission. The client actually sent Max pictures of Fenn's treasure chest to use as template and guide for this creating this custom chest.
Max's talent and techniques are quite impressive as he casts and tempers this is modern version of the treasure chest. Here are the steps Max used to create this bronze chest. It sounds very similar to casting bronze with the indirect lost-wax technique. Keep in mind without having the original Fenn treasure chest to use as a casting model, some of the lost-wax technique steps such as modeling the original work with clay have to be improvised.
The Indirect Bronze Lost-Wax Method Treasure Chest
- Clay models of the chest panels were made individually using molded clay
- These replica panels were used to create rubber molds which detailed the clay patterns
- The rubber molds were used to imprint the chest panel designs on to wax models
- These wax panel models were joined together in a ceramic shell which acted as an outer mold
- Then this shell was heated in a kiln which melted the wax and left the ceramic shell ready for casting
- The shell was placed into a sand pit and ready for casting in bronze
- Bronze ingots were placed in a crucible and heated inside of a furnace
- Bronze ingots begin to melt around over about 1200°F (degrees Fahrenheit),
- For casting, the bronze metal needs to reach a pouring temperature of near double that temperature over 2000°F
- The bronze pouring temperature of the treasure chest depends on things like the thickness of the shell walls
- The crucible was placed in a pouring handle once the molten bronze was at the pouring temperature
- Next, any slag found floating on top of the bronze was removed and the bronze was ready for casting
- The liquid bronze metal was poured from the crucible through the hole in the top of the ceramic shell mold
- This allowed the molten bronze to fill the spaces originally created by the max molds of the chest panels
- After the bronze cooled, the mold was broken open to reveal the treasure chest panels inside
- Next, the chasing and polishing or finishing began which cleaned up the panels from the casting process
- This included removing any channels, vents, and pins and polishing the treasure chest into a finished work of art
- The final steps of the casting process included sharpening the finer details of the chest and treating the surface creating the patina
- Patinas on bronze are usually created with acid, lacquer, or wax to create different tones and looks
You can learn more about Max Cast here http://www.max-cast.com.
The pictures below feature the chest from the video. Check out the video to see the bronze treasure chest forging process.
(Click Image For Detailed View)
The Bronze Chest Summary
As you can see, there are several different chests very similar to Forrest Fenn's bronze treasure chest and more are being made. Also, just because one chest looks like Fenn's chest doesn't mean it is the real chest or the exact same. Learn to appreciate each chest's art work, lines, reliefs, and iconography. Try to gauge the creation date based on the patina of the bronze or the faux patina which artists apply to bronze. By learning to identify these details, you can become an expert in gauging the authenticity of the real Fenn treasure chest.