Exhibition & Events

CENTURIES OF GOLD
from the Castellani Collection

The Superintendency for Architectural Heritage, Landscape and Historical, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage of the Province of Arezzo, together with Mosaico and Munus, the company that holds the concession for managing the museum location at the Basilica of St. Francis with the frescos by Piero della Francesca, the Vasari House Museum, the Gaio Cilnius Mecenate National Archaeological Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre, are pleased to present the exhibition Centuries of Gold from the Castellani Collection.

Curated by Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent for Archaeological Heritage in Southern Etruria, and by Ida Caruso, the exhibition will be held from 16 April to 2 November 2014 in the prestigious exhibition venue in the Basilica of St. Francis, restored to mark the Vasari anniversary celebrations.

Presenting an important selection of jewellery, archive documents and a futuristic multimedia exhibition design,which will literally bring to life three important paintings depicting goldsmith’s workshops–A Goldsmith in his Shop (Possibly St. Eligius),painted by Petrus Christus in 1449 and now held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Goldsmith’s Workshop, painted by Alessandro Fei in 1571 and now held by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Retable of St. Eligius, by the Maestro of Sanluri, now held by the National Art Gallery in Cagliari – the exhibition showcases the history of the goldsmith’s art in nineteenth-century Italy, in a period of great cultural and political ferment, dominated both by the events that led to the country’s unification and by major archaeological discoveries in the region of Latium and in Etruria.

A leading role is played in this exhibition by the Castellani family, an inevitable benchmark whenever talk turns to the goldsmith’s art in Italy. The members of this family included collectors of unquestioned taste, aficionados of the classical world and above all excellent, highly-skilled goldsmiths, who set a new trend for a century in Europe and the rest of the world: the fashion for “archaeological jewellery”.

One of the most important merits of the Castellani family was the fact that they managed to rediscover and refine techniques from antiquity, succeeding perfectly in reproducing the original techniques of granulation and of filigree, even achieving the particular intense yellow shade, typical of antique gold, in modern jewellery, which meant recreating the unique colour that was a characteristic of Etruscan gold, a colour which the Castellani themselves called giallone (deep yellow).

The 1850s and 1860s marked the highpoint for the Castellani family, when their workshop enjoyed runaway success that took it to Paris and Vienna and demand for the family’s goldsmith services soared: they even received orders from Italy’s royal family. It was at the end of the 1880s that the family’s fortunes started to decline: in 1919, the last heir left the entire collection to the Italian state, which entrusted it to the Etruscan National Museum in Villa Giulia, the home of the majority of the pieces on loan for this exhibition.

When the family workshop finally closed its shutters in 1927, it also put an end to the long and indefatigable saga of these refined craftsmen, who had brought such prestige to the tradition of Italian goldsmiths and of Made in Italy that then – as now – was proud to declare its excellence and unique character.

Adding further flavour to the event is anantique goldsmith’s workshop, recreated especially for the exhibition, in a venue opposite the Basilica of St. Francis, in Via San Francesco 9, where visitors can see and admire the equipment and tools of the trade of a goldsmith at work.

The exhibition’s main sponsor is Banca Etruria.