Silver, gilded, jasper, rock crystal, 50 x 23 x 23 cm
A silver baldachin with columns at each corner, surmounted by a dome, envelops a round vessel made of rock crystal at its centre in which a reliquary would originally have been kept.
The design is remotely reminiscent of the work of goldsmiths in the Grand Ducal Workshops in Florence in the 17th century where elaborate architectural reliquaries were produced in wood with gilded silver ornamentation. The shape of the ciborium with its twisted columns was obviously inspired by Bernini’s baldachin over the tomb of St Peter in the Papal Basilica in the Vatican.
Provenance: Andrea Meacci, Florence, Italy Dr. Franco Giorgi, Florence, Italy
The rock of the church
Martyrdom at Rome
The disciple Simon Peter (the ‘Rock’) came from Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Little is known about Peter’s ministry after Jesus’ death and the Resurrection. Virtually all details about his life at that time come from the Acts of the Apostles. He ensured that the disciples of Jesus soon met again in Jerusalem to proclaim the message of the resurrection. He then travelled around Antioch and Asia Minor as a missionary, preaching especially to non-Jews. His last missionary journey took him to Rome. Tradition has it that he met St Paul there. Like Paul, Peter died a martyr’s death between 64 and 67 AD. His body is believed to have been buried on the spot where St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. Archaeological excavations beneath the basilica support this theory.
The princes glory
increased by art
The Grand-Ducal workshop
Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519–1574) greatly contributed to the growth of the Medici art collection. He was a patron to the major artists of the time, supported artistic craftsmanship and contributed to Florence’s expanding fame. In 1588 Ferdinand I de’ Medici (1549–1609) restructured the grand-ducal court workshops in the Palazzo degli Uffizi into an autonomous, functional complex where specialist engravers, gold and silversmiths created exquisite objects of the highest artistic quality on crysal, cameos and gemstones with considerable skill and artistic creativity. Numerous works of art were sent as gifts to the princely courts of Europe with whom the Medici had established a dense network of relations – testimony to the power and influence of the Medici.
St. Peter at Rome
Where Petrus rests
A ciborium is a superstructure, supported by columns, over an altar. In Early Christian basilicas the ciborium marked and protected the site of the free-standing altar over the tomb of a martyr. This form of structure set a strong accent in church architecture. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the high altar in St. Peter’s in Rome – certainly the most famous ciborium and a model for many others. His most important patron, Pope Urban VIII, commissioned this work from the young artist. With the assistance of Borromini, Bernini made the baldachin architectural form from the bronze cladding of the beams in the vestibule of the Pantheon.
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