Curated by: Simonetta Castronovo
The exhibition dossier Portraits of gold and silver, curated by Simonetta Castronovo, set up in the Sala Atelier of Palazzo Madama from 5 February to 12 July 2021, presents a gallery of reliquary busts from the fourteenth to the early sixteenth century, coming from all the dioceses of Piedmont and depicting saints linked to the devotions of the territory and to the titles of certain local churches, as well as some specimens from Switzerland and Haute-Savoie.
Documented as early as the 11th century to contain the relic of the skull of certain saints, the busts are in effect portraits in goldsmiths, usually in copper or gilded silver, often enriched with precious stones, colored glass and enamels. A specifically medieval production, in which the taste for the portrait of classical tradition coexist - hence the presence of details relating to the hairstyle or clothing - and the devotional practices theorized by some 12th century ecclesiastics and philosophers, according to which contemplation the image of a saint, made with precious materials, could lead the faithful towards spiritual elevation. The busts and reliquary heads are therefore configured as works of double significance: both works of art and receptacles for the relics of the saints they represent and as such objects of veneration by the faithful. Piedmont and the Alpine area have a very high number of these testimonies for the period XII-XVI century, especially in relation to the other regions of Italy. The exhibition aims to document this richness, also stylistic, trying to understand the reasons for the success of this type in our territory.