Donna Distefano for the Metropolitan Museum Store

Distefano Creates Exclusive Jewelry Line for The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in Celebration of The Costume Institute’s Spring 2018 Exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

May 7, 2018, New York City-- Master goldsmith and jewelry historian Donna Distefano created a series of exclusive jewelry collections for The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in celebration of The Costume Institute’s exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, that was on-view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 10 through October 8, 2018.

The three exclusive Donna Distefano for The Met Store collections are titled Emblems of the Evangelists, Rosary Charms, and Hail Holy Queen. In addition to the three collections, Distefano also displayed the one-of-a-kind Ever More Saints necklace, an incredible homage to the cherished Catholic tradition of using medals bearing representations of canonized saints as talismans. 

Two of the three jewelry collections, Emblems of the Evangelists and Rosary Charms are directly inspired by pieces from The Met collection, meticulously represented in exact detail. The third, Hail Holy Queen, comprises a collection of rosaries based on signature designs that Distefano debuted on Italian runways in the 1990s. 

All three collections are available online at store.metmuseum.org. Click on images below for direct links to Met Store website.

About the Collections

Rosary Charms: This striking jewelry was inspired by decorative elements found on a 16th-century rosary pendant in The Met collection (17.190.323, on-view in Gallery 535). Possibly made in Flanders or Mexico, the original pendant is beautifully crafted in silver gilt with rock crystal and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The pendant was once attached to a string of beads used in the recitation of the rosary, a multipart devotion to the Virgin. Here, the crowned skull announces the constant proximity of death; such a poignant image is known as a memento mori, as it encourages one to reflect on the transience of life.

Emblems of the Evangelists: This jewelry collection celebrates an early Renaissance ring in The Met collection, which was made about 1464–71 in Rome, Italy (1989.79, on-view in Gallery 500). A powerful symbol of papal authority, the original gilt-brass ring is engraved with the name of Paul II. Such impressive rings may have had a ceremonial function. Our unique designs, crafted in sterling silver or vermeil, showcase the Evangelical symbols on the bezels of this magnificent ring, including an angel (Matthew), winged lion (Mark), winged ox (Luke), and eagle (John), as well as a French royal shield. 

Hail Holy Queen: This collection includes signature designs inspired by pieces that Distefano debuted on Italian runways in the 1990s. Of the four rosaries included in the collection, one is Truth, a large rosary crafted using black onyx, fine silver, and sterling silver with a black patina. Additional designs include MysticalRose, designed using fine silver, sterling silver, and rose quartz. The “Our Father” beads of the rosary are carved in the shape of roses. BrotherSun, Sister Moon,a crystal, sterling, and fine silver rosary redux that was originally created a quarter of a century of ago. Ravenis made with black onyx and faceted garnet, strung by hand with the St. Benedict medal as its centerpiece. The raven motif is depicted taking flight in the cross. St. Benedict is known as a powerful protector against the devil, and the medal includes Latin words and letters representing this authority: 

Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur = May we be strengthened by His presence in the hour of our death

CSSML = Crux sacra sit mihi lux! – May the holy cross be my light

NDSMD = Nunquam draco sit mihi dux! = May the dragon never be my guide

VRSNSMV = Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! = Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities

SMQLIVB = Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! = What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!

Ever More Saints, 2018: This one-of-a-kind piece integrates medals collected by the artist over the course of over fifty years from churches and shrines in Italy and New York, as well as others cherished and handed down from parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors. To echo that legacy, the chain is hand fused in pure silver with pure gold rose petals, and the links are hand forged.  It measures 70 inches and is divided into 10 stations, the medieval number 10 representing purity, and each rose petal weighs 1.37 pennyweights, to align with some of the sacred numbers of Dante's Divine Comedy. 

Distefano has also created a special cameo reproduction based on the Paternoster Pendant with the Virgin and Child (1975.1.1522, on-view in Gallery 951). Latin inscription: CONCEPTIO TUA DEI GENITRIX VIRGO GAUDIUM AN[NUN]CIAVIT IN UNIVERSO MUNDO:  Your immaculate Conception, Virgin Mother of God, has announced joy to the entire world.

 The Virgin and Child pendants are available in both solid sterling and sterling and 18-karat yellow gold designs

To purchase, please visit The Met Store at: https://store.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/heavenly-bodies