Exhibition | Naples’s Treasure: The Museum of Saint Januarius

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 11, 2013

Press release from the Museo Fondazione:

Naples’s Treasure: Masterpieces of the Museum of Saint Januarius
Il Tesoro Di Napoli: I Capolavori del Museo di San Gennaro
Museo Fondazione, Palazzo Sciarra, Rome, 30 October 2013 — 16 February 2014
Musée Maillol, Paris, 19 March — 20 July 2014

Curated by Paolo Jorio and Ciro Paolillo

14. Michele Dato, Collana di San Gennaro, 1679-1879, oro, argento, gemme, costruzione di gioielleria (3484 x 2362)

Michele Dato, Necklace of Saint Januarius, gold, silver,
and precious stones, 1679, with additions made in the
eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Never before have such masterpieces from the most important collection of goldsmith art in the world, together with original documents, paintings, drawings, vestments and church plate, been exhibited beyond the walls of Naples. This exhibition offers an opportunity to investigate the inestimable artistic and cultural value of the treasure of Saint Januarius from a scientific point of view.

The exhibition, curated by Paolo Jorio, Director of the Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro, and Ciro Paolillo, a professional gemmologist and professor of history, economics and the production of jewellery in the Sapienza University of Rome, with the advice of Franco Recanatesi, will be an event of great historic and artistic importance: over seventy works belonging to one of the most important collections of goldsmith’s art will be displayed for the first time beyond the walls of the Parthenopean city, beside original documents, paintings, drawings, vestments and church plate. The exhibition will offer an opportunity to investigate the inestimable artistic and cultural worth of the treasure of Saint Januarius from a scientific point of view, in order to rediscover, pass down and re-experience Naples on a journey through time and to protect its name, history, artists and, above all, this priceless heritage that has been collected over seven centuries.

CopTesoroNA50With twenty-five million devotees scattered throughout the globe, Januarius is the most famous Roman Catholic Saint in the world. Amidst devotion and prejudice, faith and disbelief, his long history is closely connected to Naples, the citizens of which – periodically threatened by natural catastrophes and historical events – even closely identify themselves with their patron saint. The exhibition to be held in Palazzo Sciarra will have both a scientific and an emotional approach, in order to explain the evolution of the cult of Saint Januarius in Naples, why the Treasure belongs to a secular institution and how Parthenopean goldsmithery was perfected over the centuries, thus creating most of the masterpieces on show.

In order to understand the impact of this event, suffice it to say that the historical value of the Treasure of Saint Januarius, formed throughout seven centuries of donations from Popes, Emperors, Kings and popular ex-votos, is higher than that of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and those of the Tsar of Russia, as found during a research project conducted by a team of gemmologists led by Professor Ciro Paolillo, curator of the exhibition, the results of which were published in 2010. The team investigated several precious jewels donated to the Saint, which will be exhibited in Rome, for three years. Moreover, unlike other dynastic and ecclesiastical heritages, the Treasure has remained in tact ever since it was formed and has never endured spoliation, nor have the jewels ever been sold to fund wars. It has constantly been increased by means of acquisitions and accessions.

13. Matteo Treglia, Mitra, 1713, argento dorato, diamanti, rubini, smeraldi e granati (1852 x 2470)

Matteo Treglia, Mitre in gilded silver, 3326 diamonds, 164 rubies, 198 emeralds and 2 garnets, 1714.

Professor Emmanuele F. M. Emanuele, Chair of the Fondazione Roma, says, “I believe it is essential to spread knowledge of this priceless heritage belonging to our country, the preservation and enhancement of which constitutes a strategic asset for the culture market. It is precisely due to its commitment in this field that the Fondazione Roma, by means of the activities performed by Fondazione Roma-Arte-Musei, has, in time, become a point of reference for the balance of the demand and supply of culture in the Eternal City. The exhibition devoted to Saint Januarius fully qualifies to be included in the cultural project promoted by our institution, which aims to spread all forms of art as an element of social development. The attention we pay to the relationship between culture and the community constitutes the link between the activities performed by the Foundation and those of the Museo di San Gennaro, which has led to the accomplishment of this important exhibition that will allow the public to admire, for the first time, works which, due to their preciousness and strong connotations of identity, have never been shown beyond the walls of Naples.”

Tesoro di San GennaroPaolo Jorio says that, “Each work of art belonging to the Treasure of Saint Januarius expresses its intrinsic artistic wealth, fruit of the unequaled craftsmanship of sculptors, silversmiths, chasers, welders and ‘put togetherers’ (as the assemblers were called in those days) who were capable of creating masterpieces of rare beauty using their technical know-how and creativity, and also tells the extraordinary story of a people and its ancient civilization. An account that places the Neapolitan people and European monarchs on the same level, since they all paid homage to Saint Januarius in a secular way and donated priceless masterpieces to the city of Naples.”

The exhibition will revolve around the two most extraordinary masterpieces of the Treasure: the Necklace of Saint Januarius, in gold, silver and precious stones created by Michele Dato in 1679, and the Mitre, in gilded silver, 3326 diamonds, 164 rubies, 198 emeralds and 2 garnets, created by Matteo Treglia in 1714, the
Tricentennial of which is celebrated this year.

The Necklace of Saint Januarius is one of the most precious jewels in the world and its history inextricably interweaves with the trail of constant devotion the city and monarchs have paid to this saint over the centuries. In 1679, the Members of the Deputation decided to use several jewels (crosses studded with sapphires and emeralds hanging from thirteen large solid gold links) in order to create a magnificent ornament for the bust, appointing Michele Dato, with the aid of other craftsmen, to enable the execution of such an exacting piece of work in only five months. The necklace is now comprised of other jewels of illustrious provenance created by various craftsmen at different times: a cross donated by Charles de Bourbon in 1734, a cross offered by Maria Amalia of Saxony, a three piece clasp with diamonds and emeralds, a cross with diamonds and sapphires dated 1775 bestowed by Maria Carolina of Austria, a crescent shaped broach dated 1799 donated by the Duchess of Casacalenga, a cross and a broach with diamonds and chrysolite offered by Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and other artefacts. Interestingly, Queen Marie Josè, consort of Umberto II of Italy, was attending a private visit to the Chapel of San Gennaro in 1933 and having nothing to donate, she removed the ring she was wearing and offered it to the saint. This regal gift is now to be found on the necklace.

When landing in Naples, even Napoleon, who plundered everywhere, not only refrained from stealing but, for once in his life, actually donated. In fact, when entering Naples in 1806 Joseph Bonaparte donated, as advised by his brother, a cross of diamonds and emeralds of rare beauty which the Deputation then included amongst the jewels bestowed by sovereigns that compose the priceless Necklace of Saint Januarius. Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, who married beautiful Caroline Bonaparte, also paid heed to the advice of the French Emperor and donated a monstrance in gold and silver with precious stones in 1808. Both masterpieces will be exhibited in Rome. The arrival of the French in Naples is witnessed in only one known artwork: a painting by the French artist, Hoffman, depicted in 1800 and retrieved in Paris by the Deputation, in which the high altar in the Dome may be distinguished. The armed and threatening French troops, commanded by Championnet and Macdonald, stand on the altar ‘demanding’ Saint Januarius to perform the miracle of the liquefaction of his blood in front of the people. This painting will also be exhibited in Rome, as likewise the canvas of Saint Januarius depicted in 1707 by Solimena, the most famous authentic chromatic masterpiece in the world since, as from that year, all the holy pictures of the patron saint of Naples have been inspired by this painting.

The Mitre, the Tricentennial of which is celebrated this year, was commissioned by the Deputation in order to be placed on the bust during the festive procession held in April 1713. It was created in the Antico Borgo Orefici, established by the Anjou monarchs, which was an authentic mine of talents including the author, the maestro goldsmith, Matteo Treglia. The Mitre has an enormous material and symbolic value. The Mitre is adorned with 3964 precious stones including diamonds, rubies and emeralds, according to the traditional construction of ecclesiastical items in relation to the symbolic meaning of the gems: emeralds represented the union between the sanctity of the Saint and the emblem of eternity and power; rubies the blood of martyrs and diamonds an irreprehensible faith. The gemstones also reveal another fascinating affair. Several gems have been found to come from the ancient quarries in Latin America. Ciro Paolillo affirms that “thanks to Treglia’s devotion, today we are looking at one of the world’s most beautiful collections of emeralds belonging to the ancient people of South America; consequently, these gems are valuable both for their preciousness and history.” (more…)

Call for Papers | The Production of Ornament: Reassessing the Decorative

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 11, 2013

From H-ArtHist:

The Production of Ornament: Reassessing the Decorative in History and Practice
University of Leeds, 21–22 March 2014

Proposals due by 13 December 2013

Keynote speakers
· Susanne Kuechler, Professor of Material Culture in the Department of Anthropology, UCL
· Alina Payne, Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard

The descriptive terms ‘decorative’ and ‘ornamental’ are in many ways synonymous with superfluity and excess; they refer to things or modalities that are ‘supplementary’ or ‘marginal’ by their very nature. In the West, such qualitative associations in made objects intersect with long-standing and inter-related philosophical oppositions between ‘form’ and ‘matter’, ‘body’ and ‘surface’, the ‘proper’ and the ‘cosmetic’. Accordingly, this has weighed both on determinations of value in artistic media, and on the inflexions of related histories – particularly histories of ‘non-Western’ art, design and culture, where a wide range of decorative traditions are deemed unworthy of critical attention.

Yet such frameworks are no more historically stable than they are culturally universal. To take one very clear and ‘central’ counter-example, decoration in some strands of Renaissance architectural theory (Filarete, Alberti) emerged as a rigorous codification of meaning, as an essentially functional (political) language. In many ways the history of ornament may itself be seen as a process of marginalisation of such ways of thinking, and the separation of ornament from any form of social practice.

This two-day conference seeks to explore the various ways in which ornament might be regarded as itself productive of its objects and sites. How might the technologies, techniques, and materials of ornament be related to the conception and transformation of modes of object-making? How might ornament be understood to inform its objects, disrupting the spatial categories of ‘surface’ and ‘structure’, and the temporal models in which ornament ‘follows’ making? What are the relations between ornament and representation, and what is at stake in the conventional oppositions between these categories? What are the roles of ornament in larger dynamics of copying, hybridisation and appropriation between things? In what ways have practices and thinking on ornament staged cultural encounters, and engendered larger epistemological and social models?

The conference will explore the production of ornament across a broad range of historical and geographical contexts. We invite proposals from researchers and postgraduates working in any discipline, as well as practitioners, conservators and curators. Proposals of no more than 300 words, along with a CV, should be sent to Dr Richard Checketts and Dr Lara Eggleton at production.of.ornament@gmail.com by Friday the 13th of December 2013.

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