In Vicenza, inside the Palladian Basilica, there is the only museum in Italy entirely dedicated to jewellery which, through both a philological and thematic storytelling, showcases over 400 masterpieces of goldsmith art, from the precious original crown of the Madonna of Monte Berico to the creations of the greatest designers and stylists.
The more than 410 m2 of museum space, projected by the famous Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola, is located in the monumental complex of what can be considered, to all intents and purposes, the first shopping center dedicated to the goldsmith’s art in Italy. The Jewellery Museum is, in fact, located inside the Palladian Basilica, right where, in 1333, under its arcades, the first goldsmiths’ guild was established in the city.
A visit to the Museum should, therefore, begin with a walk along the perimeter of the Basilica admiring the marvelous restored original signs of some of the oldest and most prestigious shops in Vicenza, from Ageno to Marangoni up to Giulio Balzarin. A panel hanging outside the Soprana jewelry, which today continues the historical tradition of Marangoni, testifies, in fact, with an engraving from 1770, how the shop is today located in the same place as its “ancestor”.
Jewels are eternal, immortal, of that immortality of the materials of which they are made and of the feelings that are embedded in them.
The Museum, a project of the Italian Exhibition Group in partnership with the Municipality of Vicenza, is developed through 9 thematic rooms. In particular, the current exhibition itinerary, “Italian Jewels”, curated by Alba Cappellieri, full professor of Jewellery Design and president of the Fashion Design degree course at the Milan Polytechnic, tells the story of Italian jewellery and its international myth through the work of its main goldsmith districts, from Vicenza to Valenza, from Arezzo to Torre del Greco.
A journey that takes us to know the most important goldsmith houses and collectors, the designers, the artisans and the absolute masterpieces that will make you fall in love, even more if possible, with the art, of which Italy is a master, of the “modeling” the most precious metals and stones inspired by the sacred value of absolute beauty.
The museum itinerary starts with the Symbol Room, where the jewel is told as a “symbol” of power, religion, royalty, social prestige, and patriotism. Here two absolute masterpieces of Vicenza goldsmith art are revealed to the visitor, boasting a strong mystical and evocative power, which alone are worth the trip to come and see this original museum.
These are the Crown and the Pectoral commissioned at the beginning of the 1900s in honor of the Madonna of Monte Berico Sanctuary and made by Angelo Marangoni (sometimes it is the story that “closes” a circle because the museum room almost overlooks the place where their historic workshop once stood). The two works of art were created, respectively, in gold, diamonds, peridot, amethyst, rubies, sapphires, pearls, with the precious ring donated by Pope Leo XIII set in the center, and putting together some of the most precious objects donated to the Sanctuary over time, more precisely 16 earrings, 5 brooches, 5 crosses and 4 rings. The result literally will leave you speechless.
The second Room, that of Magic, tells the genesis of the jewels used as amulets and talismans, “magical” objects, therefore, starting with the most powerful in history such as the 19th-century Venetian Rosetta pearl necklace from the Democratic Republic of Congo, that probably belonged to a powerful tribal chief shaman.
The next one, the Function Room, showcases everyday objects made with precious materials, such as buttons, buckles, and clasps, including curious accessories such as the diamond theater binoculars, the 1917 cigarette case signed by Vittorio Emanuele III or the beautiful “poison ring” from 1820.
The fourth Room, the one dedicated to Beauty, tells us about the jewels used as an aesthetic accessory through the works of some of the most famous goldsmith houses, from Nardi of Venice with its magnificent Moretti to Amedeo Boutique in Torre del Greco with its finely engraved cameos.
The following Rooms, Art, Fashion, Design, are dedicated to the great artists who have tried their hand at the goldsmith’s art. A magnificent opportunity to retrace the history of Italian design, with the works of great designers such as Aldo Cibic and Ettore Sottsass, and the fashion industry. Each accessory tells a chapter in the history of Italian costume: from the 70s necklaces by Emilio Pucci, to the bracelets by Gianni Versace, symbol of his golden age, when in the 80s he enchanted the catwalks with the gothic-chic style, to the plastic black and white bangles by Giorgio Armani.
The protagonist of the room is a wonderful 2001 purple dress by the great Gianfranco Ferrè, inspired by African art, with gold thread, bronze-colored beads, small spheres in spiraled gold lurex thread, cylinders and small spheres in gilded metal, Swarovski stones, gold lacquered wood and gilded metal, from his historical archive.
In the wonderful Icon Room, the eighth, some of the most beautiful “icon” jewels are exhibited, that is, those that have become timeless objects of desire, unique in their workmanship and details, inspired by the absolute myths in history. In particular, there are various objects from the collections of the Pennisi Jewelery in Milan, such as the magnificent 1920 Egyptian Revival set with Egyptian gods in platinum and diamonds or the 1925 bracelet by Mario Buccellati, which belonged to Gabriele D’Annunzio with the autographed dedication “memory of the end”.
The exhibition closes with the Future Room in which some of the contemporary designers who have most innovated and inspired the art of jewelery are narrated, such as the Armature Collection by Paola Volpi, inspired by the armor of Paolo Uccello’s paintings, or the sculpture rings small gardens of Eden by Ilenia Corti.
Follow the museum’s social networks to stay updated on the temporary exhibitions and the many activities, also for children and families, organized in the multipurpose spaces of the structure.
The crown of the Madonna di Monte Berico is the only piece of high jewelery that Vicenza has produced and conserves after the Napoleonic invasion which stripped the city of all its precious items, including the famous Jewel of Vicenza, an ancient circular silver model of the city attributed to the architect Andrea Palladio.