“Paperoles”, from the French papier roulé, literally means “rolled paper”. The paperoles were reliquaries, decorated and embellished with paper, golden threads, embroideries and other more or less precious materials, made between the 17th and 20th centuries.
It is a particular type of reliquary, for domestic or conceptual use, traditionally made of paper by cloistered nuns, where sacred images or relics, placed inside paintings or other cases, were enriched with elaborate and accurate compositions in paper and other materials, such as waxes, ivories, glass and crystals.
The “paperoles”draw their inspiration from the goldsmith’s technique of filigree; they were built by rolling up small strips of golden and coloured paper on themselves according to motifs mostly with a floral motif. They could also be embellished with beads, shells, corals, small parchments, fabric scraps, pieces of glass and bone fragments attributed to the saints.
The richness of the decoration corresponds to a strong symbolic value, which refers to the theme of fruitfulness and life; while the iconography and the arrangement of each element that appears in the reliquary reveal precise theological references and to the life of the saint.
These masterpieces have always aroused wonder, because they are made up of infinite combinations of tiny and accurate details, which leave nothing to chance.
These are generally small devotional objects, intimate, for private use, precious miniatures despite their simplicity, intended for the clergy and aristocratic families.
Their realization, in simple theory (just roll up small strips of golden paper), evolves over time into compositions that required months of work and required extraordinary patience, that Mario Collino (Prezzemolo) used to build the masterpieces exhibited in this exhibition, drawing inspiration from the world of nature and everyday life.
In traditional representations the human figure never appears. Instead Prezzemolo wanted to insert the anthropic element in the two spectacular Nativity scenes on display.