Seven Centuries of Silver
by Paolo Jorio
Invention, popular devotion, religiosity, spectacular: all this and more contains the first thematic exhibition in the Museum of Treasury of San Gennaro dedicated to Silver. A path of splendors along seven centuries that today it is possible to admire intact, thanks to the meritorious work of the Deputation. Many of the exhibits, indeed, have been saved and preserved by the continuous sacks and expropriations of the epoch, able to reach down to us intact, witness of an exemplary history of fine craftsmanship, probably unique, starting from the Thirteenth century.
The silverware on show in the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro document, precisely, the extraordinary ability of Neapolitan sculptors and silversmiths who were able to reconcile wisdom, technique and creativity. Calyxes, ciboria, baskets, candelabra, dishes, ostensories with the busts and statues of Patron Saints and other exhibits are the result of a team of highly qualified masters in their field. Sculptors, chasers, welders, “ensemble mitter” (as the assemblers of the time were called) created masterpieces of rare beauty.
The silverware represents an important part of the so-called Treasure of San Gennaro, because these old manufactures were mostly for the daily liturgical use and most of the statues were built to guard the relics of the Saints, that were very important in the popular devotion, especially in the XVII century. Several busts were then commissioned by confraternities, churches and monasteries in honor of their Patrons and then entrusted to the custody of the Chapel of Treasure of San Gennaro, from which they came out to be carried in procession on the occasion of the several religious festivals. But the artistic beauty of the busts and statues of Patron Saints, especially those of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, go beyond the only devotion. Filippo Del Giudice, Carlo Schisano, Giovan Domenico Vinaccia, Lorenzo Vaccaro are just some of all the authors of these works in the exhibit, which represent a pride of art and craft of Naples, but also the witness of worship and devotion to San Gennaro.