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John Galliano (British, born Gibraltar, 1960) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947). Evening ensemble, autumn/winter 2000–2001 haute couture. Courtesy of Dior Heritage Collection, Paris. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

NEW YORKThe Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, on view from May 10 through October 8, 2018 (preceded on May 7 by The Costume Institute Benefit) is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue—in the medieval galleries, Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, part of The Robert Lehman Wing, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center—and uptown at The Met Cloisters. The thematic exhibition features a dialogue between fashion and masterworks of medieval art in The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican serves as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers.

The exhibition is made possible by Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman, and Versace.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

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Processional cross, ca. 1000–1050. Byzantine. Silver, silver-gilt. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1993 (1993.163)©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Gianni Versace. Evening dress, autumn/winter 1997–98. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Donatella Versace, 1999 (1999.137.1). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

The Catholic imagination is rooted in and sustained by artistic practice, and fashion’s embrace of sacred images, objects, and customs continues the ever-evolving relationship between art and religion,” said Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Met. “The Museum’s collection of Byzantine and western medieval art, in combination with the architecture and galleries that house these collections at The Met, provide the perfect context for these remarkable fashions.” 

In celebration of the opening, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, takes place on Monday, May 7. The evening’s co-chairs are Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman serve as Honorary Chairs. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.  

“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion.” 

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Fragment of a floor mosaic with a personification of Ktisis, 500–550, with modern restoration. Byzantine. Marble and glass. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Fletcher Fund, 1998; Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Dodge Fund, and Rogers Fund, 1999 (1998.69; 1999.99)©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for Dolce & Gabbana. Ensemble, autumn/winter 2013–14. Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition features approximately 40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican. Encompassing more than 15 papacies from the 18th to the early 21st century, these masterworks are on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries and include papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras. The last time the Vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to The Met was in 1983, for The Vatican Collections exhibition, which is the Museum’s third most-visited show.

Providing an interpretative context for fashion’s engagement with Catholicism are more than 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present, on view in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, in part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters alongside medieval art from The Met collection. The presentation situates these designs within the broader context of religious artistic production to analyze their connection to the historiography of material Christianity and their contribution to the construction of the Catholic imagination.

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Reliquary cross, 14th century. Italian. Enamel, silver-gilt, coral, glass, rock-crystal, gold leaf. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpoint Morgan, 1917 (17.190.497)©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel. Gilet, autumn/winter 2007–8 Métiers d'Art. Courtesy of CHANEL. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb. 

Exhibition Credits

A collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, the exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, working together with colleagues in The Met’s Medieval department: C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters; Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters; Helen C. Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art;  and Melanie Holcomb, Curator.  

The interdisciplinary architecture and design firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) created the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. Select mannequin headpieces are created by Shay Ashual. Raul Avila produced the gala décor, which he has done since 2007.  

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El Greco, Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara, circa 1600, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.5). © Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Cristobal Balenciaga, evening coat, fall 1954–55, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Bryon C. Foy, 1957 (C.I.57.29.8) . Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum, digital composite by Katerina Jebb.

Related Content
A publication by Mr. Bolton accompanies the exhibition and includes texts by Ms. Boehm, Mr. Mann, and Marzia Cataldi Gallo, David Morgan, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, and David Tracy in addition to new images by Katerina Jebb.  Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the 336-page hardcover book has 330 illustrations. The two-volume set comes in a slipcase and retails for $65.

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Bible and Book of Common Prayer, British, c. 1607, silk and metal, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Irwin Untemeyer, 1964 (64.101.1291). © Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino. Evening dress, spring/summer 2014 haute couture. Courtesy of Valentino S.p.A. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Manuscript Leaf With Scenes From the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian, c. 1320–42, tempera and gold on parchment, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin L. Weisl, Jr., 1994 (1994.516). © Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Madame Grès (Alix Barton). Evening dress, 1969. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1988 (2009.300.1373). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Follower of Lippo Memmi, Saint Peter, mid–14th-century, tempera on wood, gold ground, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.15). © Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Elsa Schiaparelli. Evening dress, summer 1939. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.1185a, b). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Attr. to Zanobi Strozzi, The Nativity (detail), c. 1433–34, tempera and gold on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of May Dougherty King, 1983 (1983.490) © Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Jeanne Lanvin for House of Lanvin. Evening dress, 1939. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946 (C.I.46.4.17a–c). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Mitre of Pius XI (r. 1922–39), 1929. Italian. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican CityImage courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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John Galliano for House of Dior. Evening ensemble, autumn/winter 2000–2001 haute couture. Courtesy of Dior Heritage Collection, Paris. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

 

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Yves Saint Laurent. Statuary vestment for the Virgin of El Rocío, ca. 1985. Courtesy of Chapelle Notre-Dame de Compassion, Paris. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren for Viktor & Rolf. Ensemble, autumn/winter 1999–2000 haute couture. Courtesy of Groninger Museum. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Cope of Benedict XV (r. 1914–22), 1918. Italian. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for Dolce & Gabbana. Wedding ensemble, spring/summer 2013 alta moda. Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Dalmatic (front) of Pius IX (r. 1846–78), 1845–61. Italian. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Christian Lacroix. Wedding ensemble, autumn/winter 2009–10 haute couture. Courtesy of Maison Christian Lacroix, Paris. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Tiara of Pius IX (r. 1846–78), 1854. German and Spanish. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb

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Cristóbal Balenciaga for House of Balenciaga. Wedding ensemble, 1967. Courtesy of Balenciaga Archives. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Chasuble (back) of Pius XI (r. 1922–39), 1926. French. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb

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Azzedine Alaïa. Dress, 1992–95. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation Inc. Gift, 2014 (2014.453). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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John Galliano for House of Dior. Evening ensemble, autumn/winter 2005–6 haute couture. Courtesy of Dior Heritage Collection, Paris. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Jean Paul Gaultier. "Lumière" evening ensemble, spring/summer 2007 haute couture. Courtesy of Röhsska Museum, Sweden. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Christian Lacroix. "Gold-Gotha" ensemble, autumn/winter 1988–89 haute couture. Courtesy of Maison Christian Lacroix, Paris. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.

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Loredano Apolloni (Italian, 1957–2016). Shoes of John Paul II (r. 1978–2005), ca. 2000–5. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican CityImage courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Digital Composite Scan by Katerina Jebb.