Ecclesiastical Objects

The majority of Valadier’s most important commissions came from the Church. For a number of ecclesiastical institutions — in Rome but also elsewhere in Italy and Europe — he designed altars, candlesticks, and lamps. One of his last commissions was the casting of a large bronze bell for St. Peter’s in Rome. Most of the objects he created for churches were destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars, melted down to provide cash for the struggling Papal States. A few surviving works of this kind are shown in this exhibition. A small number of them still exist in situ in Rome, such as the altar of the Borghese Chapel (also known as Cappella Paolina) in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Preparatory drawings for the altar and the card frames for it are shown in the exhibition. Other objects survived because of their more remote locations. The six silver statues from the high altar of the Cathedral of Monreale are exceptional loans to this exhibition, as well as Cardinal Orsini’s mass service, which had been gifted to a church in an isolated part of southern Italy. More objects of this kind are known to have been produced by Valadier and were among his most celebrated achievements.

Luigi Valadier (1726–1785), High Altar of the Cathedral of Monreale, ca. 1768–73. Silver and gilt metals, 72 7/8 x 209 1/2 x 26 5/8 in. (185 x 532 x 67.5 cm); photo Mauro Magliani