Department of Decorative Arts
Department of Decorative Arts

Department of Decorative Arts

From 1 October 1999, in the implementation of the Rescriptum ex Audientia of the Supreme Pontiff John Paull II of 1 July, the Directorate General of Pontifical Monuments, Museums and Galleries (now the Directorate of the Museums) were entrusted with the museum spaces, hitherto under the jurisdiction of the Vatican Apostolic Library, including the decorations, furnishings and artistic objects contained in them. With respect to the “highest importance and historic and cultural value of the museographic whole constituted by the Museums of the Vatican Apostolic Library, which shall conserve their traditional names of Christian Museum, Profane Museum and Collection of Donations”, the Directorate undertook “not to dismember the collections and, as far as possible, to maintain them in the historic places where their exhibition is already consolidated, instituting a specific Department in charge of curating these collections”. On 1 July 2003 an ad hoc Department of Decorative Arts was instituted under the care of the scientific staff of the Museums, in the persons of Guido Cornini, art historian, and Claudia Lega, archaeologist.

The Department is responsible for the complex and varied collections dispersed in the prestigious areas located in succession along the western part of the “Corridor” of the Belvedere, linking the Sistine Chapel to the exit: the Room of Tributes of Pius X, the Chapel of Saint Pius V dedicated to Saint Peter the Martyr, the Room of Tributes, the Room of the Aldobrandini Wedding, the Room of Papyri, the Christian (or Sacred) Museum, the Gallery of Urban VIII, the Sistine Halls, the Pauline Halls, the Alexandrine Hall, the Clementine Gallery, and the Profane Museum.

In addition to the historical nuclei of the Christian Museum (founded by Benedict XIV, 1757), the Profane Museum (established by Clement XIII, 1761) and the “Collection of Donations”, the responsibility of the Department extends to the multitude of artefacts of various natures and dates, which gradually merged into the collections of the Vatican Apostolic Library: the Treasure of the Sancta Sanctorum (discovered at the Lateran in 1905), ivories, enamels, and jewellery of the medieval and modern ages; numerous archaeological objects, mainly of daily use, found mostly in the Roman catacombs or in the territories of the ancient Papal State, including distinguished glass and gilded glass; late antique silver; oil lamps and bronze vessels; and pre-Roman and Roman votive statues, as well as important examples of Roman wall paintings in fresco; scientific instruments such as planispheres, terrestrial and celestial globes; models by Algardi and Bernini, etc. The Department also curates the collections of ceramics and majolica from the medieval and modern age, as well as the collection of miniature mosaics pertaining to the Vatican Museums.