The author retraces the conservative story of the Pace di Chiavenna in light of his critical fortune, identifying the moments and the protagonists – inserted in the context of their institutional profile – of the rediscovery of a work of extraordinary quality but for a long time hidden. The twentieth century emerges as an important period both for the history of protection and for the profile of scholars engaged in this work, such as Adolfo Venturi. It is only in 1899, in fact, that the Pace is known and appreciated, on the occasion of the Ancient Sacred Art exhibition in Como. It was Venturi, in the second volume of his monumental Storia dell’Arte Italiana (1902), who contextualized the object, sought out its analogies and relationships and investigated its quality and technique within a broader figurative analysis. Passed unharmed in the two world wars – carried and hidden in Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome during the First War, preserved and protected in the Valtellina in the Second – the Pace was requested on the occasion of some prestigious exhibitions: the 1936 Triennale dedicated to the Italian Jewelery, the in Zurich Kunstschatze der Lombardei exhibition of the winter of 1948-1949 and the Lombardy Treasures of Milan exhibition in 1952. This exhibitions therefore constituted the premise for that awareness and widespread knowledge of Pace, which will bring to the end of the twentieth century to the musealisation of the artefact at the Church of San Lorenzo in Chiavenna.
The precious handcraft, that is usually called Pace di Chiavenna is actually the cover of a liturgical book, the ‘Evangeliario’, the Gospel book. In the High Middle Ages the book containing the Gospel passages proclaimed during the Mass was in fact a real object of worship and devotion: for this reason it was kept, as in a kind of tabernacle, in particular cases of great artistic value. Later, when the Gospel book was no longer used in the liturgy, often the precious covers were reused for the rite of the exchange of peace: hence the way in which even today the so-called Pace di Chiavenna is defined and known. These contribution presents synthetically the use of the Gospel book and its case in the liturgy, starting from the patristic era, with particular attention to the High Middle Ages, to reach the Renaissance with the passage from the ‘Evangeliario’ to ‘Pace’, from Gospel book to liturgical object for the rite of the exchange of pace.
This essay analyses the inscriptions, in prose and in verse, on the Pace of Chiavenna, both in the golden cover and in the enamel medallions. Close paleographical and textual examination point to an eleventh century dating, even if no compelling comparisons are possible. The couple of hexameters is compared with other eleventh century literary texts, especially some poetical inscriptions on liturgical objects commissioned by Emperor Henry II, even if they are different in many ways.
The author examines the ancient gems present in the Pace di Chiavenna: on the one hand the gems are analyzed from an archaeological point of view, on the other they are considered within a broader horizon, that of the reuse of ancient materials in the Middle Ages.
The restoration of the Pace di Chiavenna gave the opportunity to study the construction techniques of this precious object. The construction systems of the gold parts were analyzed, such as the frames of the enamels and the embossed perimeter frames. The close observation allowed us to identify some refined systems to increase the brightness of the enamels and to give them colors not obtainable with the limited choice of enamel colors at the time available. The wooden support showing shows numerous traces of previous nailing and the probable presence of fabric deducible from some filaments held by nails. The arrangement of the various parts that make up the work has been changed, thanks to the identification of the traces of ancient nails that corresponded to holes in the gold plates.
Radiocarbon dating was applied to four organic samples from the Pace di Chiavenna: two wooden cores extracted from the frame, a structural wooden cross underneath the central decoration, and a waxy material used to fix a cloisonné enamel. Carbon was extracted using routine techniques, and isotopic concentrations were analyzed using Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy (AMS). The results ascribed the death of the living organisms from which the materials were taken to a specific historical period; the raw results were statistically elaborated, narrowing the most probable period range, which resulted compatible with Henry II’s last journey in Italy (1021-1022 AD).
In the present research Archaeobotany has been applied to the study of some organic materials of Pace di Chiavenna, that are the wooden plate, the wooden cross beneath the central golden cross and the beeswax compound beneath one enamel. The palaeobotanical analyses of the wooden elements could not clarify the geographical origin of the cross, probably black alder wood, while a subalpine or Mediterranean origin seems plausible for the walnut plate. The species found in pollen preserved in the beeswax currently have a very wide altitudinal distribution, extending from the hill to the mountain belt. All the species found were widespread during the Middle Ages in almost all of Western Europe, so it is not possible to identify or completely exclude a specific region in which the wax could have been produced. However, it seems more likely that the area of origin is Northern Italy and in particular a territory near the Pre-Alps. The palynological evidence indicates a strongly anthropized environment, that probably surrounded a city or a large inhabited center.
The scientific analyses carried out on the so-called Pace di Chiavenna are focused on the study of the inorganic materials used in the metal plates, in the enamels and in the stones. The x-ray fluorescence (p-XRF) and the UV-visible spectrophotometry in diffuse reflectance with optical fibers (FORS) were applied in situ with portable instruments and they allowed to identify the chemical composition of metal alloys and enamels; moreover, they allowed to identify the chromophores of the gems without sampling. The results obtained answered to some question raised by art historians, also opening new discussion areas regarding the production of the enamels.
The gemstone patrimony of the Pace di Chiavenna is outstanding, being composed of 190 items grouped into 18 plates. All gemstones have been analysed and identified with traditional gemmological techniques (refractometry, microscopy) and with instrumental spectroscopic techniques (UV-visible diffuse reflectance spectrophotometry with optic fibres - FORS, X-ray spectrometry - XRF), finding a substantial concordance of results. They have been identified garnets of the pyrope-almandine series, corundums of the blue sapphire variety, beryls of the emerald variety, amethysts and 1 green translucent chromian chalcedony. Two items remain unknown. There are also pearls, the most abundant gemstones, and 5 metallic spherules, not examined in a special way. A peculiar finding is the presence of a chrome chalcedony gemstone, a green variety of chalcedony frequently found in Roman jewelry. Some hypotheses were drawn on the geographic origin of the gemstones, on the basis of both historical-literary documentation (mostly the Topografia cristiana by Cosma Indicopleuste, sixth century) and of elemental data provided by XRF analysis. Most of the red garnets and of sapphires were from the Indian subcontinent. Emeralds could come from Egypt. It is also taken seriously the widespread brokerage of the Jewish merchants who have moved freely in both Muslim and Christian worlds. Finally a comparison is proposed between the Pace di Chiavenna and the eleventh century Vercelli binding with concern to elemental data from emeralds and sapphires: the two artworks seem to have gemstones with different provenances.
The essay which concludes the proceedings of the study day dedicated to the Pace di Chiavenna retraces in the first part the critical itinerary which has developed around the precious object from the moment of its rediscovery during of the 1899 ‘Esposizione Voltiana’, giving a systematic survey of the opinions and the comparisons proposed by different scholars. The discussion start then with the reconstruction of its possible original set up: extraordinarily untouched, in fact, the handwork turn out to be broken up from the Evangelistary which had to adorn already at the moment of its first documental mention (1486). In the outline of surviving handworks with the same function and thanks to the data coming from the conservative intervention, the board reveal to had been projected as the top of a case in which the most important liturgical book was preserved. The analysis of the iconographic program and of the stylish language expressed both from cloisonné enamels and from the various and extremely polished gold workings, has gathered additional comparison elements in view of the definition of the historical moment of its execution, of the composition of the équipe of goldsmiths who worked on it and of the possible commissioner.