Stories of the Missions of the Church: Costumes des Anciens Peoples

Inventory number: 23278



Born in Aix-en-Provence, Michel-François Dandré-Bardon relocated to Paris to start up his career and escape from a family that wanted him to become magistrate and study law. There, he had the opportunity to become closer to art and painting during the period of his univerisity studies. His first professors of art were Jean-Baptiste van Loo and Jean-François de Troy. He wrote van Loo’s biography in 1765. After traveling  throughout Italy to destinations, including Rome and Venice, as a part of his academic formation, he was admitted to the Reale accademia di Pittura in 1735. There, he would in 1752, go on to become  professor of painting and sculpture. A greatly-cultured man, he was also a musician and poet, aside from a painter. He is considered to be one of the greatest art theorists of the XVIII century. He died in Paris in 1783.


Cartoons for Mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica: Joshua Stops the Sun

Inventory Number: 41642 


The painting is the cartoon designed for the bezel west of the vestibule of the chapel. Joshua, the ancient Hebrew commander, son of Nun and Moses’ successor as leader of Israel, is shown stopping the sun with one arm and the moon with the other. This moment is described in the Bible: “It was then, on that day, when Amorites fled before the children of Israel and Joshua spoke to the Lord, and in the sight of all the people said: ’Sun, do not move from Gabon and thou, Moon, from the valley of Aijalon. And the sun and the moon halted until the nation was avenged of her enemies”(Joshua 10: 12-13).

These cartoons depict the two moments during which the promise of salvation is manifested through celestial phenomena: the sun stopped by Joshua (10, 12-14) and the cloud invoked by Isaiah to rain down righteousness (Isaiah 45: 8). The two characters are set symmetrically as they turn heavenwards: Joshua towards the sun which, as though in a dance, he connects to the moon with his diagonally-outstretched arms, while Isaiah turns to the cloud in front of which he kneels holding the book in hand.

The Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin occupies the second bay of the left nave of the Basilica of St. Peter. The chapel was built after the extension of the nave conducted by Carlo Maderno at the beginning of the 17th Century, at the behest of Paul V. It consists of two distinct spaces – the chapel itself and the entrance vestibule, or Anticappella. The top of the vestibule (consisting of lunettes, spandrels and an elliptical dome)was decorated with mosaics between 1683 and 1717  based on a design by Carlo Maratta and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari. In 1675, Maratta (Camerano 1625 – Rome 1713), a painter  from the Marche region, was put in charge of the designs for the mosaics. The work entrusted to Maratta started a few years later in 1683 and continued on until 1727.

Maratta was a pupil of Andrea Sacchi, who guided him in a formative study of Raphael, Carracci, and the antiquities. When he was barely eleven years old, Maratta moved to Rome where he would spend the rest of his life as an undisputed master.  By the mid-century, in fact, he was already an authoritative voice in the protean Roman context, sought out by public and private clients and participating in the most important artistic endeavors such as the decoration of the Gallery of Alexander VII in the Papal Palace of the Quirinal Palace. Created in 1657 under the direction of Pietro da Cortona, this gallery featured episodes from the Old and New Testaments and was one of the most important commissions of that era.

At the end of the 1660s, with the deaths of his master Andrea Sacchi (1661) and Pietro da Cortona (1669), Maratta became the undisputed authority on the Roman painting scene. Head of an active and flourishing workshop, he was elected prince of the Academy of St. Luke in 1664, a position that was conferred to him again in 1669. This title, by the express will of the Pope, became perpetual in 1706, thus sanctioning Maratta’s unrivaled prestige.

Maratta created an impressive series of altarpieces, frescoes and paintings of sacred, mythological, and allegorical subjects for seven popes and their families (Chigi, Rospigliosi, Altieri, Odescalchi, Ottoboni, Pignatelli, Albani). In 1704, Maratta was honored by Pope Clement XI, “the sixth pontiff with whom Carlo interacted with personally” (L. Pascoli), with the Cross of Knight of Christ. In addition to this recognition, bestowed during a lavish ceremony at the Capitol, Maratta received an annual pension of three hundred “scudi” coins.

In the last thirty years of his career, in addition to the cartoons for the mosaics of the dome of The Presentation in Saint Peter’s, Maratta designed various pieces of furniture for the mansions of his wealthy patrons, such as the bankers Montioni and Pallavicini. He also provided designs for numerous engravings, a powerful way to disseminate his art, and worked as a restorer.

Between the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, he was commissioned to work on some of the masterpieces of Italian painting, such as the frescoes of Raphael in the Villa Farnesina and the Raphael Rooms of the Apostolic Palace.

As a great painter and avid collector of artwork – Maratta’s death on December 15, 1713 revealed his greatest artistic possessions. In the inventory of his home were cited paintings of the greatest artists such as Raphael, Correggio, Titian, Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Rubens, Pietro da Cortona, Poussin.

At his lavish funeral, “in addition to most of the people, both Romans and strangers, also arrived many ladies and princesses, princes and prelates, and the grandchildren of His Holiness. All united to the Academicians of St. Luke, they made a show so grandiose that a more elegant one could not have been organized for any other worthy person” (F. Baldinucci).

Between 1686 -1688, Maratta, created the cartoons for the lunettes of the vestibule of the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, whose translation into mosaic was made ​​by Fabio Cristofani before his death in 1689. The six large tempera that are currently on display in the Loggia of Blessings feature Judith and Holofernes, Jael and Sisera, Moses and Elijah, Miriam and Joshua.

In harmony with the iconographic program of the dome, centered on the theme of Mary and the salvific mediation made ​​by image of the Virgin church, the mosaics in the lunettes depict characters from the Old Testament who prefigured Mary, as signs of the divine assistance of God against the enemies of Israel.

Restoration of the Vatican Gardens: Madonna della Guardia

EKTA 31412 (6X7 cm)


Pope Benedict XV spent countless hours in front of the shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, the patron saint of his hometown of Genoa. Many diverse monuments are scattered throughout the Gardens, and they all reflect the styles and preferences of their times. The Statue of St. Therese of Lisieux was placed in the Ethiopian College section of the Gardens in 1927, at the behest of Pope Pius XI, to serve as guardian of the Vatican Gardens . The Genoese donated a replica of the shrine of the Madonna della Guardia (the original overlooks the port of Genoa) to their countryman Pope Benedict XV in 1917 to reduce his homeland nostalgia. The devotion to Our Lady of the Guard began at the end of the fifteenth century with the apparition of the Virgin to Benedetto Pareto (1490). In this marble representation, Our Lady appears to the farmer Pareto, indicating the exact location on Figogna Mountain where she wished for a chapel to be erected in her name. In this section of the Gardens, statues of pagan deities and busts of Roman emperors complement the religious statues of angels and saints. Two sculptures of male characters wearing togas are situated alongside one of the “Aurae” statues, which are neo-Attic Hellenistic personifications of winds. There are also numerous fountains, fragments of ancient sarcophagi, and marble columns that need to be restored.

Thanks to your generosity, phase one of this project was pledged last year. A pilot restoration site has been set up, and the project is moving forward; five sections have since been adopted. In this year’s Wishbook, we present to you the following three sections of the Vatican Garden, statuary, and artifacts in need of restoration.

The Vatican gardens have been a place of quiet meditation and reflection for the Popes, ever since 1279, when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the walls of his property, he planted an orchard, lawn, and garden.  The gardens, “Palazzetto del Belvedere,” and courtyards of the Vatican Museums are located on the same ground where Nero’s Circus once stood, and where early Christians, including St. Peter, were martyred. According to tradition, St. Helena symbolically scattered earth brought from Golgotha on the Vatican Gardens to unite the blood of Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians who died under the persecution of Nero.

Today’s Vatican Gardens stretch across an area of nearly 58 acres that constitutes over half of Vatican territory. This oasis includes lush gardens filled with winding paths, vibrant flower beds and topiaries, green lawns, groves of massive oaks, and a 7.4 acre forest. There are also ancient fountains, sculptures, and grottoes dedicated to the Madonna, St. Joseph, St. Peter, and other saints.

The Gardens are complete with birds, fountains, flora, and fauna, and they epitomize the harmony and peace found in nature. They remind us of our original role as beings destined to coexist with God, nature, and one another. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed,” writes Genesis 2:8. These idyllic parks also make us think of our eternal home where all of creation will unite in the shared experience of paradise.

The Vatican grounds represent one of the most unique gardens in the world because the landscape was formed on hallowed ground and, thus, sewn with faith and hope. Many popes have prayed surrounded by this verdant haven.  Pope John XXIII often reflected in the gardens as he prepared to lead the church through the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II often invited young people to pray the rosary with him at the Lourdes shrine atop the Vatican Gardens. The Gardens are also where Pope Benedict XVI prayed his daily rosary.

Restoration of the entire collection of artwork located within the Papal Gardens has never before been performed, making this a historic undertaking.

The Marble and the Metal Restoration Laboratories, together with the General Maintenance team of the Vatican, collaborated to assess the state of conservation of the Garden’s many artifacts. Then, representatives visited various gardens around Europe, including the gardens at Versailles, to learn more about different restoration methods and techniques.  Simultaneously, an inventory and specific report was made for each of the over 600 pieces in the gardens in order to determine the following background information for each object: age of the artifact, constituent materials, former interventions of reassembly or the insertion of new stone parts, presence of metal pins, location within the Gardens, and degree of exposure to the elements. An unfortunate state of degradation affects a large number of the sculptures, and the general lack of maintenance is visible. The product of this careful study now fills a three volume work that advocates an urgent restoration project to conserve all of the artifacts in the Gardens.

Washing of the Feet by Giorgio Vasari



The fresco depicting the Washing of Feet is found in the landing of the new Staircase of Maresciallo in the lunette above the entrance portal leading from the Cortile del Maresciallo to the Sala Regia. When the Sala Regia, one of the most important rooms in the Apostolic Palace, was constructed, it became necessary to expand the old staircase that served as the only passage in the Cortile del Maresciallo. Along this passage, individuals of high rank arrived by carriage and on horseback with their corteges to attend the papal audiences. The new staircase was constructed by Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane at the time of Paul III (Farnese 1534-1549), modifying the preexisting structure by demolishing the Cappella parva, a little wider than the old Scala del Maresciallo, and inserting it in a new edifice. Later decoration dates back to the time of Gregory XIII (Boncompagni 1572-1585), when Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo 1511- Firenze 1574) began reconstruction in the Sala Regia between November 1572 and the inauguration of the room on May 21, 1573, the day of Corpus Domini. Vasari relied on various collaborators, among them was Lorenzo Sabbatini (Bologna 1530- Rome 1576). Even after the death of Vasari, work proceeded as shown by the continued payments to Sabbatini and his aids, Raffaellino da Reggio and Cesare Nebbia. They continued work in 1574-1575 on the frescoes above the five doors of the atrium of the old basilica of Saint Peter’s  and designed the Storie degli Atti degli Apostoli on the “caposcale” of the building.

The decoration of the lunette with the Washing of Feet was entrusted by Vasari to Sabbatini in1574-1575, who directed another painter in painting it according to his “order and design”.

The focal point of the scene is the figure of Jesus kneeling in the center, the profile of His face bordered by divine light, dressed in a grey robe and an apron with the sleeves rolled up and His hands outstretched in the act of washing the feet of Saint Peter in a basin. The apostle is distinguished through the usual iconographic traits: curly white hair and a beard. A young man with a mass of curly, blonde hair, most likely the apostle John, bends over in the act of pouring water from an amphora. On the opposite side, an apostle raises his arms in surprise at the humble act of Christ. The same wave of astonishment sweeps across the other apostles shown in the fresco in the side and background, behind the long table.

The scene depicts the Washing of Feet as narrated only in the Gospel of John (13,1-1-20). This scene occurs in a circle during the Last Supper, before the Passion and death of Jesus. On that occasion, Jesus, hearing the apostles argue “which of them should be considered the greatest”, told them: “the greatest among you will be like the least, and who commands will be like he who serves”. Afterwards, He wrapped a towel around His waist and began to wash the feet of the apostles in a basin. “When He had washed their feet and gathered the robes, He again took a seat and told them: “Do you know what I did to you? You call me Master and Sir and you speak rightly, because I am He. Therefore if I, Sir and Master, have washed your feet, you must also wash the feet of one another. I have given you, in effect, the example because as I have done, so too will you do” (John,13,12-15). Peter tried to stop his Master, asking him: “Sir, you wash my feet?” but Christ replied that such an action was necessary so that Peter could enter with Him into His heavenly kingdom. Still today, the Holy Thursday liturgy commemorates this moment with the celebration of the Washing of Feet, urging Christians to follow the example of Christ in service and hospitality.

The light and transparent colors, the swift figures, and the immediacy of the style is typical of the school of Vasari. The simplicity and airiness of the composition allows one to easily understand the event according to the precepts of the Late Mannerist style and the artistic-religious thought of the Counter-Reformation at the time of Gregory XIII.

XV Century Wooden Statue of Jesus Christ

Inventory Number: 42375



This elegant wooden statue represents Jesus Christ seated with one knee forward and missing portions of both arms. The face is framed by long, chestnut brown hair, and the facial hair is delicately modeled and painted on in a bright crimson. Christ is dressed very richly with a blue robe decorated by white pine cones, painted in the Oriental style. Draped over His left shoulder, He wears a cloak of contrasting colors upon which the same ornamental motif of pine cones, outlined in blue, is bordered by a full cuff lined in red. The statue’s posture indicates that it may have been formed from one or more statues with which it interacted. This is evidenced through the straight and slightly lowered gaze and the position of the arm, remaining up until the forearm, then bending 30 degrees.

Two of the principal hypotheses:

The first, because of the value of the clothes and the attitude of the figure, supposes that Christ is shown in the act of crowning the Virgin Mary, repeating widespread sculptural and pictorial paradigms that were used in Europe throughout the course of the thirteen hundreds up until the first half of the fourteen hundreds. The second hypothesis supposes that the figure of Christ was inserted in a wooden structure with many levels and compartments, centrally located and isolated, and in the act of blessing.

Such hypotheses will be studied carefully throughout the course of the restoration of the work. Historical information is lacking on the origin of this Christ, although it arrived at the Vatican Museums as a gift from Paul VI (Montini, 1963-1978) in 1976 when he purchased it in Milan from the antique dealer, Nella Longari.

The delicate model and the refined decorative taste indicate that the unknown engraver of this Christ may have lived within the first half of the 1400s, likely between central Italy and Venice. The late-Gothic elements evident in the statue, such as the graceful features of the face of Christ and the elegance of the figure and the clothes, are in harmony with  a  naturalism and formal simplification similar to that of the Renaissance, calling to mind the figures of Christ depicted by Masolino and Beato Angelico. This piece is expected to return on display after being held temporarily in storage.

Triptych by Pastura with the Virgin and St. Thomas

Inventory Number:40323

Ekta 4036

Antonio del Massaro da Viterbo, better known as Pastura, is one of the most important figures of the second half of the 1400s. His triptych with the representation of the Madonna of the belt, placed between two panel representing St. Gregory and St. Gerome, is one of the most beautiful paintings in the Vatican Museums’ collection. It is also, however,  one of the most problematic works for the Pinacoteca because it is difficult to determine its exact history.

Massaro was a painter who strictly observed Umbrian technique and followed the example set by Perugino and Pintoricchio. In 1478, as a subscriber to the statute of the Compagnia di San Luca, he painted in Rome where he had the chance to become acquainted with the painting of Antoniazzo and Melozzo. It is believed that he may have been involved with painting the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel (1481-82), or at the very least observing their completion up close. In 1489, he was working in Orvieto on tasks entrusted to him by the Operai dell’Opera del Duomo. In 1492, del Massaro returned to Rome to work on the frescoes of the Borgia Apartments. He stayed here until 1495, contributing to the Room of the Mysteries (Assunzione della Vergine) and to the Room of the Liberal Arts (la Retorica, la Musica, l’Astronomia) in Vatican City.

The similarity of the central compartment of this triptych to the composition scheme of the Assumption was  noted by many commentators. The Pastura left behind what are arguably his greatest masterpieces in the frescoes found in the choir of the Duomo di Tarquinia (1508-09). Although they were damaged by a fire in 1642, these frescoes make  reference to the Roman and Umbrian-Lazian culture and the paintings of Ghirlandaio and Signorelli.

The Triptych featured here, dating to 1497, in the cornice of the architrave resting on the arch of the sacello, in the compartment on the left (Messa di San Gregorio), was created during a period of transition in del Massaro’s style, when, having returned back to Orvieto in the service of the Opera del Duomo, he was hired for the decoration of the groups of the baldacchino and for the restoration of the fourteenth-century frescoes of the choir. This last feat landed him the commission of four New Testament “stories” to be frescoed in the “tribuna” (l’Annunciazione, la Visitazione, la Presentazione al Tempio, la Fuga in Egitto).

The chromatic and compositional solutions adopted in the three compartments of the current polyptych, are counted among the most successful creations of the painter. The artist masterfully varied the layout of the recessed areas and perfectly calibrated the construction of the interior spaces. The left panel depicts the famous episode of the Mass celebrated by Saint Gregory in a chapel of his monastery at Celio (the Saint, bent over the host, has the miraculous vision of Christ in pietàil Vir dolorum of the medieval iconography as a “speaking” symbol of the Eucharistic sacrifice-, here is also added the interesting variant of the bust of Madonna and Child). The right image shows St. Gerome penitent in the desert (the Saint, recognizable by the attributes of the lion and the cardinal cap, beats his chest while praying, on his knees, in front of the Crucifix). The central panel illustrates the traditional apparition of the Virgin to Saint Thomas, in the act of offering him her own belt (in other words the reliquary of her own belt, or Sacro Cingolo, today conserved in the Duomo di Prato). The belt is material evidence of her assumption to heaven (represented by the empty sarcophagus in the background) and a sign of apostolic duty, intercession, and spiritual communion (Thomas, in accordance with what is narrated in the Gospels, needs the aid of physical proof to sustain himself in his faith). By virtue of its particular iconographic themes, it is probable that the triptych was originally destined for an important monastic community, likely Roman, characterized by pronounced doctrinal interests and by a marked devotion to the Virgin and the Fathers of the Church. This painting is expected to be returned on display to the Painting Gallery.

Le Manteau de la Vierge by Hantai

Inventory Number: 23243

Simon Hantai (1922-2008); Le Manteau de la Vierge; olio su tela; 1960; Musei Vaticani; Palazzi Apostolici Vaticani; Collezione di Arte Religiosa Moderna


Simon Hantai was born December 7, 1922 in Bia, Hungary. From his studies at the Budapest School of Fine Arts he delved into the Surrealist Movement, befriending André Breton who wrote the preface to his first exhibition catalogue in Paris. In 1955 Hantaï broke with the surrealist group over Breton’s refusal to accept any similarity between the surrealist technique of automatic writing and Jackson Pollock’s method of action painting. In 1960, Hantaï developed his technique of “pliage” (folding); the canvas is folded and scrunched then doused with colour and unfolded, leaving apparent blank sections of the canvas interrupted by vibrant splashes of colour. “The pliage developed out of nothing.” Hantai explained. “It was necessary to simply put myself in the place of someone who had seen nothing… in the place of the canvas. You could fill the folded canvas without knowing where the edge was. You don’t know where things stop. You could even go further, and paint with your eyes closed”. The Manteau de la Vierge was completed with this technique and belongs to the Mariales series.

A retrospective of his work was held at the Centre Pompidou in 1976, and in 1982 he represented France at the Venice Biennale. A representative collection of Hantaï’s works is held at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. This piece is expected to return on display after a brief time in storage.

Female Mask from the Night Dances

Inventory Number: 101075

Foto digitale


The bifwebe (kifwebe in the singular) masks are ceremonial objects of a similarly-named society that, even today, play a role of great importance in ceremonies of the east Luba and Songe populations. The bifwebe masks, worn with a long costume and a long “beard” of plant fibers, are featured in the most important ceremonies. The female mask, unlike that of the male kilume (bilume in the plural), lacks the crest placed atop the head and has a face covered with subtle carvings, painted in white. The masks, the colors, and the costumes have great symbolic significance for the east Luba and Songe peoples. Parts of the mask are meant to portray the characteristics of specific animals, such as the lion, the zebra, the crocodile, or the porcupine. The colors on the mask express various character traits or the spiritual dispositions. White symbolizes positive traits, such as purity, peace, the moon and light. Red, on the other hand, is associated with blood, fire, courage and strength, but also harm and dark magic. The female masks fundamentally reflect positive forces.  They appear most often in night dances, during the most important lunar celebrations or on the occasion of the ordination or death of a chief. The mask is made from carved wood, cut and then accentuated with white paint. Long strips of plant fiber are attached along the perimeter of the mask.  Currently the Ethnological Museum is under renovation, but it is expected that this piece will return on display in the near future.

Pinocchio by Venturino Venturi

Inventory Number: 56393

Scansione da dia 6x7 cm n. 50520


In 1953,Venturino Venturi(Loro Ciuffenna1918-TerranovaBracciolini2002)participated in the international competition for a Monument to Pinocchio, organized by Carlo Collodi National Foundation for the park dedicated to the famous marionette.

Venturi submitted the design for a small square mosaic and tied the competition with Emilio Greco who submitted a statue dedicated to the Blue Fairy. From 1954 to 1956, Venturi worked tirelessly to complete his Piazzetta, which was to be at the center of the small park, where he intended to build an inornaate “monument”, one which he hoped would give an emotional feeling to those who would come to Pinocchio’s park. Pinocchio was an important imaginative character to Venturi during the long period that he spent in the hospital of San Salvi in 1956, just after the completion of the work for Collodi, recovering from a nervous breakdown. During his stay, he was allowed to work and he completed a series of large format drawings, many of which were dedicated to Pinocchio.

The figure featured in this year’s wishbook is made of cement. It arrived in the Vatican Collection in 2004 as a gift from the artist’s granddaughter, Lucy Fiaschi. The sculpture would have been placed in the center of the Piazzetta, which was eventually completed by Greco.

Another, bronze figure, which is a unique copy of the Vatican Museums’ cement one, depicts Pinocchio with one arm raised and his face tilted back, accentuating his funny nose. The bust was meant to be completed by the body of the puppet and would have been placed in such a way that the hand could mark the passage of time, casting its shadow on the mosaic floor. However, the work was left unfinished in the studio for the rest of Venturi’s life. This piece is expected to return on display, but we will await the result of the restoration.

Classical Pugilists Creugas and Damoxenos by Canova


Inventory Numbers: 968-970



These two wonderful and powerful statues of pugilists, created by Antonio Canova, are featured alongside the statue of Perseus in one of the most important locations of the Vatican Museums: the Octagonal Courtyard. The most important statues of the Vatican’s collection are on display for the public here every day. Historically, the Octagonal Courtyard was the first place chosen by Pope Julius II to host his collection of Classical Antiquities.

At the end of the 1700s, Canova decided to work on two statues inspired by classical models from ancient times. Thus, between 1794 and the following year he completed the statues of two boxers inspired by a story titled the Periegesis of Greece written by Greek traveller Pausanias.

Shown here are the two pugilists, named Creugas of Durres and Damoxenos of Syracuse, who met during the Nemean Games. According to legend, the two were so evenly matched that the competition lasted for hours without a decision. When there was no foreseeable end, both men agreed to take a single, undefended blow from the other. Creugas delivered the first punch, striking Damoxenos on the head. Damoxenos, struck Creugas on the side and tore out his intestines. The Argives disqualified Damoxenos, for killing his opponent and Creugas was posthumously declared the winner.

In 1795, Canova began working on the preparatory drawings  of these subjects for   sculptures. A year later, in 1796, both models were ready. The following year, Canova began the marble statue of Creugas, which was completed in 1801. In 1802, the two statues, along with the Perseus, were purchased by Pope Pius VII. Three years later, Canova developed a second model for the Damoxenos.

The Pope purchased Canova’s statues in an effort to replenish the Vatican Museums that suffered heavy losses during the French occupation. Many of the masterpieces from the Vatican Collection had been taken to France in 1798. Pius VII’s act of purchasing these statues was very important at the time, because it proudly reaffirmed a policy of national prerogatives, despite the robbery of those treasures inextricably linked to Rome. These pieces are expected to be returned on display in the Octagonal Courtyard.