The Vatican’s President for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi joined Donatella Versace and Vogue’s Anna Wintour earlier this week to take a first look at some of the 40 ecclesiastical works that will be the focus of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
The Vatican is loaning some of its most beautiful liturgical vestments, jewelled miter caps and historic papal tiaras for the exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
Fashionistas were able to glimpse a small sampling of the soon-to-be-shipped Vatican collection at a press conference in Rome this week: The white silk cape embroidered with gold thread that once belonged to Pope Benedict XV, and the emerald, sapphire and diamond-studded mitre, or pointed bishops’ hat, of Pope Leo XIII.
The exhibition will also include more than 100 pieces from top designers inspired by Catholic symbolism and art.
It represents the first time some of the Vatican’s most precious treasures from the Sistine Chapel sacristy are being exhibited outside its walls, and the biggest exhibition of its type for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Catholicism meets haute couture
Andrew Bolton, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, said, "fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another."
"Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion, he continued.
“Some might consider fashion to be an unfitting or unseemly medium by which to engage with ideas about the sacred or the divine,” curator Andrew Bolton told a crowd of Roman fashionistas and journalists.
“But dress is central to any discussion about religion. It affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, it asserts religious differences,” curator Mr Bolton told the crowd of Roman fashionistas and journalists.
“Part of the power of the church has been how they look, and how they dress, they have this extraordinary presence,” Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue magazine added.
A religious-fashion icon
The Vatican is no stranger to style. When Pope Benedict XVI's custom-made red leather loafers became a signature part of his wardrobe after his election in 2005. Newsweek labelled him "a religious-fashion icon" and Esquire named him "Accessoriser of the Year."
The Heavenly Bodies exhibition will run from 10 May to 8 October at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.