A place of legends, spirituality and myth, Vatican City is the epicenter of Catholicism worldwide. For many, Vatican City stands as the ultimate place of piety. As the seat of the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years, it is a landmark filled with a rich history that has come to symbolize devout holiness. It is the smallest independent country in the world, yet wields greater influence globally than any other.
Within this influential structure, the Pope reigns supreme – his actions and words have held remarkable import for as long as the position has existed. In March 2013, a monumental event took place as the 266th pope was elected, Pope Francis I. The first pope hailing from Argentina, Pope Francis I embraced the modern era unlike any other before, sparking a renewed global interest in the Vatican. Recently popularized by blockbuster films and top-rated pop fiction novels, the Vatican is headlining news now more than ever before. Stories about secret archives and ancient symbols within the walls of the Vatican seem farfetched, but the true history that envelops the world’s smallest country is no less intriguing.
In the art and antiques world, revelations of this city are particularly exciting. Because it is the history that many find most alluring, let’s backtrack to the early nineteenth century and look at one of the most pivotal stages in papal history.
As George IV became King of England, Susan B. Anthony led the American suffrage movement, and Napoleon I died in exile, significant change took place during the 1820s. All around, the tumultuous political atmosphere caused massive diplomatic upheaval as countries clamored to ally with neighboring states. This diplomacy was highly embraced by the Vatican City. Dedicated to forming diplomatic relationships with surrounding states, the early 19th century aim of the Vatican was focused on solidifying relations with the country Prussia, and each took part in the passage of the Concordat of 1821. Highly advantageous for both parties, this diplomatic pass further intertwined the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Prussia under the direction of King Wilhelm III and Pope Pius VII.
Naturally, in this age a diplomatic agreement was not finalized without the gracious offering of a gift to the neighboring party. Pleased with the outcome, King Wilhelm III commissioned one of the finest porcelain manufacturers to create two tazzas, also known as peace dishes, to be delivered to the Vatican. KPM, arguably the greatest name in porcelain history, crafted these tazzas with a level of richness and intricacy that would have only been appropriate for the high taste of the pope.
Because papal artifacts are extremely rare to come by, their rarity becomes all the more important. By being directly connected to the papacy, provenance of items, such as this and other furniture pieces, take on a whole new meaning of immense, unceasing importance.