Atlantis Casket 1908

Designed by John Paul Cooper and made in his workshop at Hunton, Kent.

Additional images for this object

Art work details

Year of production :
John Paul Cooper
Dimensions :
H. 11.4, diam. 14.6cm
Credit Line :

Cedarwood covered with modelled, painted and gilded gesso

The interior of the box has a paper sticker signed ‘J Paul Cooper’ in his hand.

A gesso box was the first work by Cooper to be shown at an Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1893. He designed gesso boxes and frames from the 1890s until about 1908 so this piece is a late example.

The wooden boxes were made to his design and covered with linen cloth to help the adhesion of the gesso decoration – a mixture of resin, linseed oil, and glue added to plaster of Paris or whiting (powdered chalk). The gesso was applied in thin coats and the relief decoration built up by brush by Cooper and sometimes by his wife, May.

In 1907 Cooper attended psychic sessions run by Martha Craig. She gave him a symbol – a lotus with rising blue smoke – to represent the mythical city of Atlantis. Concentrating on this symbol inspired a series of visions which Cooper translated into watercolour sketches. The decoration of the casket is based on these sketches with the lotus with rising smoke featured on the lid.

This was one of three gesso boxes exhibited by Cooper at the 1923 Arts and Crafts Exhibition, over fifteen years after they were made.

Purchased in 1975.