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Illustrated Books

Petala aurea

Gold Sheet-work of Byzantine and Lombard Origin from the Rovati Collection

  • Author: Marco Sannazaro, Caterina Giostra
  • Year: 2011
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: 25.00 €
  • ISBN: 978-88-6010-156-3
  • Size: cm 24 x 22.5
  • Illustrations: colour

Petala aurea (gold petals) is the term used in early medieval treatises for the thin sheets of gold leaf or bracteae used in jewellery. The book presents the 47 items of gold leaf, with some exceptions in silver alloy, owned by the Rovati family of Monza, industrialists and art collectors. Exhibited for the first time in Monza in the chapel of the Villa Reale, the Rovati Collection makes a major contribution to the study and understanding of early medieval jewellery. The items, most of which date from the 6th and 7th century and consist primarily of bracteae, include small crosses of Longobard origin and thin pieces of different shapes with holes, probably for application to fabrics or various other supports. There are also ornamental items of silver and copper alloy. The lack of clear stylistic definition reflects the cultural contamination of the period and makes it difficult to identify their geographic origin and the cultural sphere of reference. While some items are unquestionably early Byzantine, others reflect Barbarian tastes and can in some cases be regarded as produced in northern Italy. The precious light shed on the artistic, cultural and religious spheres contributes to a reconstruction of a society for which, by virtue of the frequent presence of the Longobard court in the 6th and 7th century, Monza constitute a key point of contact between peoples of different cultural traditions.

  • About the author
  • Contents
  • More info

Marco Sannazaro, holder of the chairs in medieval archaeology and archaeology of medieval settlements and places of worship at the Università Cattolica in Milan, also teaches archaeology and the history of early Christian and Byzantine art at the post-graduate school of classical and medieval archaeology. He is a member of the board for the research doctorate in archaeology of processes of transformation, the Accademia di Sant’Ambrogio, the Association pour l’Antiquité tardive and the Società degli Archeologi Medievisti Italiani.

Caterina Giostra is a researcher and lecturer on Christian and medieval archaeology and a member of the faculty of the post-graduate school of archaeological heritage at the Università Cattolica in Milan. She is also a member of the university council for post-classical archaeology and the teaching board of the graduate degree course in cultural heritage sciences at the Università Cattolica in Milan, the Società degli Archeologi Medievisti Italiani and the Association pour l’Antiquité tardive.

A Collector's Motivations – Luigi Rovati

The Reasons behind the Exhibition – Marco Sannazaro

Considerations of a Contemporary Art Critic – Marco Meneguzzo

The Collection


Gold Sheet-work: Various Uses – Marco Sannazaro

Gold-sheet Crosses: Origin, Meaning and Function – Caterina Giostra

Iconographic Themes: the Cross, Christ, the Emperor – Marco Sannazaro

Crafting Gold Sheet – Caterina Giostra

XRF Analysis – Letizia Bonizzoni, Mario Milazzo

Concluding Considerations – Caterina Giostra, Marco Sannazaro

Description of Items

Scale Drawings