Vast database of Italian church’s art and artefacts goes live
Experts generally positive, but
gaps that need filling Naples
By Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 24 December 2012
has published a vast online catalogue of the Italian Catholic Church’s
artistic heritage. The project, which began 16 years ago, is ongoing but in the
meantime the Church hopes the database will help in the recovery of works if
they are stolen. Vatican
The website contains almost 3.5m objects, from paintings and sculptures to ornaments, crucifixes, altarpieces and other items belonging to some of
63,773 churches in 216 dioceses. The database will be subject regularly
updated. Thousands of works held in the churches of certain dioceses, such as
those of Italy Florence and , are still to be catalogued. Naples
The project is a collaboration between Church and State, involving the dioceses, the Ministry of Culture, the Italian Episcopal Conference and the National Office for Ecclesiastical Heritage. Initial funding was set at around €51.6m.
The database will eventually be expanded to include the Church’s architectural heritage and literary archives.
Users can search by artist, subject matter, object, diocese and date range and the search results can be filtered further if needed, but experts have pointed out a number of flaws in the system that suggest more work is needed.
David Ekserdjian, an art historian and curator, who specialises in the 16th-century Italian Renaissance, says the database has a number of absences and inconsistencies. For example, a copy of Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto, 1604-06, is registered in the diocese of
Tuscany, and dated to between 1600 and 1649,
whereas the original, in the church of
Sant’Agostino, , is absent. Similarly, Donatello’s
wooden sculpture of St John the Baptist, 1438, in Venice’s Santa Maria Gloriosa
dei Frari church, is nowhere to be found, but a wooden crucifix that was only
recently attributed to Donatello, dated to between 1440 and 1445, is already
registered in the diocese of Padua. Rome