Through its Exhibitions Service, the Vatican Library allows its collections of manuscripts, printed books, prints, coins and medals to be used for cultural
projects which intend to promote the diffusion of knowledge. Ecclesiastical property belongs specifically to the Christian community; however, due to the universal nature of the Christian message, one can say that it
also belongs to all of humanity. To promote wider knowledge of its inestimable treasures of wisdom and beauty, the Library grants a limited number of loans from its collections to the world's major museums
for temporary exhibition. Such loans are granted only for projects which have a scientific purpose, or for major exhibitions of a cultural or religious nature. Human culture, or rather human cultures constitute an
open field for evangelization, and form a context in which the Library gladly makes its voice heard to the men and women of our time.
The Prefect of the Library, supported by the relevant Committee and in accordance with the Regulations which have been approved by the Secretariat of State, makes a careful choice among the many requests for loans which are received every year. He also takes into account the fact that the main tasks of the Library are to preserve and transmit to posterity its precious collections, and to make them available in the Library itself for scholars from around the world to consult and study.
During the last year, many celebrations occurred in Italy and beyond to celebrate the genius of Raphael
on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of his death. Of those, the most important for us was
the exhibition Raffaello that was held at the Scuderie del Quirinale. This show traced the development
of Raphael’s approach to Antiquity as it changed in the course of his life. It highlighted the
role of Perugino on his proto-classical style, the inspiration of Pinturicchio on his revival of
decoration, and the influence of Leonardo and Michelangelo to arrive at the synthesis that Raphael
affected between the ancient and the modern, which is in many respects his most lasting legacy. The
Library participated in this significant event and lent four works (Barb.lat.4424, Chig.M.VII.149,
Vat.lat.10228, R.I.III.298), confirming our fruitful collaboration with this important institution.
The Money Museum in Lisbon with the scientific collaboration of the Vatican Medagliere organized the exhibition Money, Faith and Politics: Coins and Medals from the Vatican in Lisbon. This show was arranged in four sections: Money and the World of the Gospel, History of Papal Coinage, Portugal and the Holy See, Foundational Ceremonies. The Vatican Library lent a considerable number of coins and medals, including the famous denarii of Pope Adrian I (772-795), which bear, for the very first time, the image and name of the pope and not that of the Eastern Roman Emperor, an important sign of the ascendency of the papacy, as well as the monetary masterpieces of the Hamerani family, which display historical events that show the close relationship between the papacy and Portugal. By far, the most impressive piece of the exhibit was the gold coin worth two and a half papal ducats issued by Pope Leo X (1513-1521). This coin depicts on the reverse the three wise men and was minted in 1514 to celebrate the Portuguese ambassadors who brought a remarkable gift from King Manuel I to honor the pope: the elephant Hanno.
The Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi of Forlì, in collaboration with the Comune of Forlì, organized the very moving, but also of considerable scientific value, exhibition, Ulisse. L’Arte e il Mito, dedicated to the mythic hero. This show sought to reconstruct the iconographic fortunes of the famous figure over the centuries. Odysseus is the hero of human experience, endurance, intelligence, speech, survival, self-awareness, and the social values of one’s time. This great exposition, held at the San Domenico Museums, examined the relationship between art and myth by means of this paradigmatic character. The central question was to show how the mythical tale was transformed into a figurative image and how this transposition influences and redefines our understanding of the myth. On this occasion, the Vatican Library lent Vat.lat.4776 (the Divine Comedy, Mariotto di Nardo), Reg.lat.1500, and the facsimile of Urb.lat.365 (the Urbinate Dante).
The Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK Gent) held an exposition dedicated to Jan van Eyck, one of the most famous Flemish painters. The exposition proved a great success among the public and critics alike, bringing together most of the master’s work, many of which are kept in the most important museums in the world. This provided visitors with an opportunity to appreciate the artist’s beauty and expressive force in a single visit. Copies of lost works were also included in addition to works from van Eyck’s studio. For the occasion, the Vatican Library lent Vat.lat.13650 (Bartolomeo Facio, De viris illustribus, 1457) and the printed book Cicognara.V,2391 (Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de più eccellenti pittori, scultori..., 1568).
The Exhibitions Service deals with all the steps involved in the process of planning, organizing and administering loans of works belonging to the Vatican Library. The Regulations which are currently in force require the borrower to send a request, including a description of the exhibition project, to the Secretariat of State (His Eminence Card. Pietro Parolin) and to the Prefect of the Library (Msgr. Cesare Pasini) at least 12 months before the inauguration of the exhibit. The total length of the loan may not exceed 4 months. The Exhibitions Committee, presided by the Prefect and made up of the heads of the relevant offices, meets four times each year to evaluate and approve the received requests. It gives special consideration to projects whose themes coincide with the interests of the Library, which has a long tradition of promoting cultural events of great artistic or religious value.
The Library participates in no more than 12 projects each year, and only loans a very limited number of objects for each one. In addition, a period of three years must pass before a given object may be loaned again. In addition to these criteria, the Library always reserves the right to refuse a request due to the exceptional age, rarity, value or frailty of an object, or to preserve it from the risks and strains involved in repeated transportation and exposition. The Regulations for Exhibition Loans clearly explain the terms and requirements under which the Vatican Library loans its objects; it should be read carefully by the borrower, signed, dated and stamped by the person responsible for the institution which is to host the exhibition, and returned to the Vatican Library. The management of loans requires a series of procedures and operations which follow a precise timeline; and all the required documents must be prepared in advance (description of the object, photographs, loan contract, insurance policy). All data regarding the subjects and the initiatives for the year are entered into a computer program which allows the Library to constantly monitor the activities of the Exhibitions Service, together with the progress and the deadlines of the procedures. These data are interfaced with those which concern each single work on loan, so that all the elements which are needed to reconstruct the history of the works, of their restorations and of their movements are always available.
The Exhibitions Service works in close collaboration with the curators of each exhibition, with the goal of coordinating the many operative aspects and the preparation of the necessary procedures and documents.
Special attention is paid to security measures and to the environmental conditions required to guarantee the safeguard of the objects on loan. The organizers of the exhibition must take out a
special insurance policy known as "nail to nail", with the Library as beneficiary, against "all risks", and is responsible for any damage done to the works during their absence from the Library.
The Exhibitions Service also aims to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken at both ends during the operations of delivery, packing, unpacking, inspection and setup of the exhibit, in order to maintain the state of conservation of the works even as they pass through "critical" environments, different from their normal conservation environment, during transport and during the time they spend in the host institution. In order to guarantee the application of all the conditions stipulated in the Regulations for Exhibition Loans, loaned works are always accompanied by a courier who is a staff member of the Library and who assists in unpacking, verifies the state of conservation of the works on loan and ensures that they are displayed in an appropriate manner in the host institution.