Shown for the first time outside Italy, The Treasure of San Gennaro opens at Musée Maillol
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Shown for the first time outside Italy, The Treasure of San Gennaro opens at Musée Maillol
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 at the Maillol museum in Paris shows a reliquary bust of San Gennaro dating from 1305. The exhibition "The treasures of Naples, the jewels of San Gennaro" will take place starting March 19, 2014 until July 20, 2014 at the Maillol museum. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET.

PARIS.- The treasure of San Gennaro will be shown for the first time outside Italy in this exceptional exhibition at the Musée Maillol in Paris from 19 March to 20 July 2014

One of the largest collections of jewellery in the world, the San Gennaro treasure is comparable with the crown jewels of France and England, but rather than belonging to the former ruling dynasties, the State or the Church, the treasure belongs to the people, to the Neapolitans themselves.

San Gennaro, Saint Januarius, the principal patron saint of Naples, was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian. The saint’s blood, collected in two ampoules, liquefi es three times a year – this has happened on the same dates for centuries – a phenomenon that science, even today, cannot explain.

On 13 January 1527 an unusual contract was notarized between the people of Naples and the saint, who had been dead for over 1,200 years. In exchange for Januarius’s protection against the eruptions of Vesuvius and the plague, Neapolitans undertook to establish and keep a treasure in a chapel to be built in the cathedral and dedicated to him. Today this cult has lost none of its force. The most important masterpieces from the Treasure of San Gennaro, made and collected over the course of centuries, will be shown in this exhibition.

The Necklace of San Gennaro, a spectacular assemblage of jewels, realized between the 17th and 19th centuries, brings together donations from illustrious rulers such as Charles V de Bourbon, Joseph Bonaparte, Maria Carolina of Austria, sister of Marie Antoinette and Maria Amalia of Saxony, to which were added jewels from anonymous Neapolitans, placing the people and sovereigns on equal footing.

The Mitre of the Saint, made in 1713 by Matteo Treglia, is covered in 3,326 diamonds, 164 rubies and 198 emeralds. Among these exceptional stones are the most beautiful and most signifi cant collection of Colombian emeralds in the world, and rubies of such intense colour that one has been dubbed the “lava of Vesuvius”.

Fifteen colossal busts and two solid silver statues realized by the greatest sculptors and gold and silversmiths of the Baroque, including the lifesize Tobias and the Angel, a collaboration between the famous sculptor Sammartino and the silversmith Giuseppe Del Giudice in 1797, the bust of Saint Euphebius by the sculptor Cosimo Fanzago and the silversmith Aniello Treglia in 1672, and the wonderful bust by Carlo Schisano from 1733, representing Saint Irene as a protector of Naples from Vesuvius.

The Reliquary of the martyr’s blood made in vermeil by Angevinian metalworkers in the 14th century, and the sumptuous gold and silver liturgical objects, decorated with jewels and coral, are rarely visible because most of these pieces are kept in the vault of the Banco di Napoli.

Finally, paintings depicting Saint Januarius and his miracles by Luca Giordano, Domenichino, Micco Spadaro and Solimena, plus two paintings of Vesuvius erupting by Volaire, will allow this collection to be shown in its extraordinary context.

With the Treasure of San Gennaro at the Musée Maillol, it is a city that is displayed, one that grew from the magma of a volcano, fl irting with death since Antiquity, as capable of the worst as the best. In this exhibition it is the whole of Naples, the millennia-old city and one of the capitals of European art, whose story is told.

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March 17, 2014

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