Giojelli e gioiellieri milanesi, storia, arte, moda (1450-1630) e Glossario e documenti per la giotelleria milanese (1459-1631).
Paola Venturelli, Glossario e documenti per la giotelleria milanese (1459-1631) (Pubblicazioni della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia dell'Universita di Pavia, 89) Florence: La Nuova Italia Editrice and Milan: RCS Libri, 1999. pp. 204. IL 50,000 (pbk). ISBN: 88-221-4202-0.
Paola Venturelli's two publications on Milanese jewelry of the Renaissance are complimentary. Her Gioielli e gioiellieri is not provided with a glossary, and the serious student of Renaissance jewelry and goldsmiths' work will need to use the two publications in tandem. This survey of jewelry made in Milan or by Milanese jewelers working elsewhere is an excellent study of the subject, which is confined to the years between 1450, the year in which Francesco Sforza assumed power, and 1630, the year of the great plague, which marks a caesura in the production of the luxury arts in Milan. In fact, this book covers not only jewelry and fashion, as the title suggests, but also goldsmiths' work and gem-engraving, and places these arts in the broader context of the culture of fifteenth and sixteenth-century Milan. It is divided into seven chapters which discuss Milanese goldsmiths; materials and techniques; the circulation of precious materials and of the jewelry itself; iconography; Leonardo da Vinci and his influen ce on jewelry; function and typology; and jewelry in the sumptuary laws and its relation to fashion. Each chapter is followed by notes, and the volume is furnished with a bibliography and index of artists and jewelers. The volume is amply illustrated, with many of the plates in color. Here one might have wished that the plates had been numbered for easier reference. It would also have been useful if the volume had been provided with a more extensive index which included all names mentioned; place names; and techniques and media discussed.
The author is the major authority on the subject of Milanese jewelry and has many articles and books on the subject of jewelry; goldsmiths' work, and fashion to her credit. She studies jewelry of various periods, but it is above all to the Renaissance that she devotes her research. Many years spent not only in the Archivio di Stato of Milan but in numerous other archives as well have provided Venturelli with an array of primary sources to suggest and support lines of inquiry. Notarial documents; stati d'anime, records of baptisms and marriages; carteggi; and numerous financial records, to name only a few of the categories of documents which she has explored, corroborate her subject in an impressive manner. Many of her citations are of unpublished documents which will furnish readers with useful material for future research.
Venturelli's initial chapters are particularly fine concerned as they are with a consideration of the luxury arts at the court of Ludovico ii Moro; the importance of hard-stone workshops in sixteenth-century Milan; and the use of jewelry and gemstones in banking, where the Jews played an important role. The chapter devoted to Leonardo da Vinci and his followers around 1500, as well as to the continued interest in Leonardo in late Cinquecento Milan, will be of particular interest to the art historian. And here the numerous publications on Leonardo and goldsmiths' work and jewelry published by the author in the journal, Achademia Leonardi Vinci should be mentioned.
Ongoing research produces new conclusions, and Venturelli has changed her opinion regarding an enameled gold pendant in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, showing the bust of the Emperor Charles V in profile surrounded by a legend identifying the subject which is attributed by her here to the great sculptor and goldsmith, Leone Leoni (155). She now judges it, together with a pendant of the same subject in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, to be nineteenth-century and produced in the context of the Renaissance revival so important for the decorative arts of that century. Her conclusions have been published in Gioielli in Italia: tradizione e vonita del gioiello italiano dal XVI al XX secolo (Venice: Marsilio, 1999). It is worth noting here that the cameo of Charles V and Philip Ii cut by Leoni, which is fully documented in a letter of 1550 as cited by Venturelli (57), is not lost, as she states, but rather survives in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In considering jewelry created in the nineteenth cent ury it might be well to rake another look at the Canning Jewel in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which the author dates to 1570 C?) (94), and which is related to a pendant in the form of a siren in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has been convincingly dated by Clare Vincent to circa 1860 (The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984, no. 117).
The biographical entries which form an appendix to the text are useful and full of archival references. Many of the great dynasties of jewelers are treated, and their biographies make fascinting reading. This section provides a triumphant finale to an important contribution to a neglected subject. The author has produced a thoughtful and carefully researched survey, which will stand as a major work not only on jewelry but on many of the related arts as well.
The glossary is an essential reference book which will serve not only those interested in Milan but students of the jewelry of other metropolitan centers as well. The author provides a definition of each jewelry term followed by various forms which the term assumes and references to documents where each form appears. These documents are published at the end of the glossary and many, such as an inventory of the jewelry of the Duchess Bianca Maria Visconti Sforza (1459) or the inventory of the jewelry listed in the will of Giovanni Giacomo Trivulzio (1577), provide interesting reading in and of themselves. A similar, and likewise useful, study has been published on terms regarding jewelry and goldsmiths' work in Tuscany by Gabriella Cantini Guidotti (Orafi in Toscana tra XV e XVIII Secolo, 2 vols. Florence: Accademia della Crusca, 1994). The glossary is preceded by an introduction; discussions of some of the media; jewelry techniques; materials used for embroidery; and heraldic jewelry. An index and extensive bibliography bring the volume to a close.