A goldsmith’s masterpiece from le Marche, one of the regions affected by the 2016 earthquake, on display at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello


24 September 2017 - 30 September 2018

The Museo Nazionale del Bargello has the pleasure to present the Reliquary of Montalto, attributed to Jean du Vivier, a French artist active in Paris at the court of Charles V in the second half of the fourteenth century. Thanks to the collaboration of the Museo Sistino Vescovile di Montalto, this superb work of art will remain on view until September 30, 2018 in the Cappella della Maddalena (Magdalene Chapel) of the Bargello Museum.

Originally donated to the Museo Sistino Vescovile di Montalto by Pope Sixtus V, the reliquary—an extremely rare masterpiece of medieval goldsmithing—is the most treasured object in the museum’s collection. In the dramatic circumstances following the earthquake of October 30, 2016, which led to the Montalto Museum’s temporary closure, the Bargello decided to host the reliquary so that it could remain on view even while the historic building housing the museum’s collection is restored. In displaying this artistic treasure, the Bargello also wishes to raise the public’s awareness of the critical situation, still ongoing, in several regions of Central Italy affected by the earthquake.

The oldest part of the reliquary, made of gold, is attributed to the famous Parisian goldsmith Jean du Vivier, who worked for the French king Charles V (1364-1380) in the latter half of the fourteenth century. Designed to hold precious relics, it was created using the delicate and difficult technique of enamel ‘en ronde bosse’ (‘enamel in the round’) which allowed the goldsmith to cover metal surfaces with brilliantly colored enamels that sparkle like gemstones and pearls.

For the rarity of its sacred contents and its unique artistic form, the reliquary became an object of great desire among monarchs, popes, and cardinals—quickly changing hands from the Dukes of Burgundy to Ferdinand IV of Tyrol; to Lionello d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara; and, through the German jeweler Giacomo de Goldemont, eventually to Pope Paul II Barbo (1464-1471). In the sixteenth century, Pope Sixtus V Peretti (1585-1590) donated the reliquary to the town of Montalto in the region of Le Marche, “his dearest homeland.”

With this special exhibition, the Bargello also wishes to support the fundraising initiative for the restoration of the Museo di Montalto and other monuments of the ‘Musei Sistini del Piceno’ that were damaged by the earthquake. Donations will be collected through a crowdfunding campaign, as well as from the proceeds of the sale of a booklet on the reliquary’s restoration, completed by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

The Montalto Reliquary is one of the greatest masterpieces of oreficeria sacra—the goldsmithing of religious objects. During the work’s exhibition at the Bargello, the museum will offer guided tours, lectures, and other activities devoted to the detailed study and diffusion of knowledge around the practice of this art.