Baroque Monstrance and Thurible

From the Collection of the Vatican Museums’ Museum of Sacred Art comes a series of richly decorated Baroque Monstrances and Thurible.

The first of these objects is a rayed monstrance of Sicilian pink marble with embossed bronze appliqués. This object is a refined product of a Roman workshop dating back to the late 18th and early 19th Century. It is completed in the shape of a cross decorated with precious stones like jasper, agate and carnelian. A circular transparent window for Eucharistic adoration made of rock crystal surrounded by gems and marked down by a half-moon shaped decoration, is located in the center.

The monstrance was previously located in the Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel and it is traditionally attributed to Luigi Valadier (1726-1785), the greatest silversmith of the Neoclassical period in Rome.

The second part of this restoration project consists of three more objects recently acquired by the Decorative Arts Department of the Vatican Museums, which come from a private collection in Florence. The first two are also radial monstrances and intended for Eucharistic adoration. The third is a censer for burning incense, a symbol of the offer acceptable to God. The first monstrance is made in embossed copper, engraved and gilded with an apical cross connected to the stem by the figure of a cherub. It dates back to Pope Paul III (Farnese, 1534-1549), as evidenced by the words “THIS CUP WAS DONE AT THE TIME OF POPE PAUL III…”. There is also a Latin inscription referring to the Virgin Mary located at the top node of the stem (” SUPER OMNES SPECIOSA”) and one on the lower part below (“DE LA CO[M]PAGNIA DI CORPO CRISTI “). These inscriptions in Latin link the object to the Marian cult in Rome. Perhaps these objects were both donated to a church dedicated to the Virgin.

The second monstrance was completed in 1770, and is made of silver and brass embossed with gilding (the radial and the base), along with a stem terminating in a pair of angels resting on a globe in the act of showing the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both the decorative motifs of the radial in the form of grapes and wheat, and the insert in relief between the nodes, refer to the Eucharistic devotion of the Sacred Heart. This is linked to the mystical visions of Santa Maria Marguerite Alacoque (1647-1690) proposed to the cult of the Congregation of Rites in 1765 and confirmed by Pope Pius VI in 1794. A famous example of the divulgation of the cult of the Sacred Heart is a painting by Pompeo Batoni with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today, in the church of the Jesuits in Rome (ca 1760.).

The censer dates back to the end of the 1700’s. It was completed with a circular silver foot and the suspension chain. It is clearly a product of a Neoclassical workshop from the late 18th Century, but it is already affected by the regular distribution of the volumes which characterized the artifacts of the next century. Although the author of this beautiful object has not been identified, the restoration will allow a better recognition of the name of the silver company which provided material for the artist, thus leading to a possible identification of the author.

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