This month an intrepid searcher ran across an image of a chest in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts that looks a great deal like Forrest’s bronze chest, named Indulgence, hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe. It is not Forrest’s chest. It is certainly a chest that on the surface, looks a great deal like Forrest’s…but it is not the one we are looking for. Forrest’s is still hidden in the mountains north of Santa Fe.
The Museum’s chest was donated to the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1969. The museum specifies the dimensions of the chest as 9.6″ x 9.6″ x 6″. Forrest measured his chest and knows it to be 10″ x 10″ x 5″ But aside from dimensional differences there are other discrepancies that can be detected by examining photographs of both chests.
Here are images of both chests:
The angle and lighting in these two photographs are clearly different and we really only have the front of each chest to compare. But in spite of those limitations and their apparent similarity..there are interesting differences which suggest that these two chests were probably made by different artists, possibly in far different centuries.
The most noticeable difference is the overall patina of the bronze. Forrest’s is dark, copperish and rich looking while the museums is bright with a slight yellowish cast and very shiny.
The irregularities between the two chests show up better when we look closer at the figures. To begin, let’s look at the row of shields that adorn the edge of the lid…specifically the 4 on the left side of the hasp.
Here is a closer look at that area on each chest:
At first glance the 4 shields may look identical. But they are not. Their positions are ever-so-slightly different.
The first shield on the far left is tilted barely to the left on Forrest’s chest but on the Museum’s chest that same shield is tilted ever-so-slightly in the opposite direction.
The differences in the second shield from the left are easier to see. On the Museum’s chest that shield has its upper left corner missing. But on Forrest’s chest there is no missing corner.
The third shield on the Museum’s chest is quite tilted while on Forrest’s chest that shield is perfectly straight.
Notice the design between the shields. Between the third and fourth shields on Forrest’s chest we can see four rounds and a cross in the center. But on the Museum’s chest the cross is less distinct and has become a diamond.
Now let’s examine an area on the front of the chest to the right of the hasp. we see a figure lifting a ladder with other figures below the ladder. Here is the detail area from the photos:
This detail is more difficult to make out until your eyes get adjusted to what you are looking at…
The area I want to focus on is the ladder and the hand that is holding the ladder from above.
First, note the apparent thickness of the ladder rungs in the two photos. The rungs look much thicker in Forrest’s chest. This is because of the lighting, which on Forrest’s chest exacerbates the high relief of the rung compared to the hollow area under the rung. On the Museum’s chest the rungs do not show the high relief. the area under the rungs is shallower.
Next, notice the angle at the wrist where the hand is holding the ladder. The angle in that wrist is much narrower on Forrest’s chest.
Now look at these two images showing the lower right corner of the chest.
There is a dent in the bottom plate in Forrest’s chest which does not appear in the image of the Museum’s chest. It may be easier to see this difference in the full images of the two chests.
There are many other differences as well that can be detected in the images of the two chest’s. But here is one very curious similarity which causes one to wonder how these oddities could come about on both chests.
Look at the top right corner of each lid:
Both chests have a drooping corner. As if something very heavy was dropped on the corner of each lid or possibly each was designed with a drooping corner in mind..remarkable!!
My point is that although the chests appear, at first glance, to be the same, there are many differences between the two. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that these two chests are the same…or that Forrest’s chest has been found and hidden in the Detroit Institute of Arts. These are two different chests. Similar but not the same.
My guess is that over time, more of these chests will surface in museums and collections around the world…Indulgence is hidden in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe…That’s the one I want to find.
Here is an alternative photo of the chest at the Museum. Patina looks closer to Forrest’s chest but the noted differences are still apparent. Forrest’s chest and the Museum’s chest are different in dimensions and in details.