The Golden Fleece by Giovanni Corvaja

The Embodiment of a Myth

There is a symbol of the eternal nature of perpetuity, power and order: 

the Golden Fleece of a divine goat. 

It is guarded in a distant land across the sea where no one has been. 

It brings good luck to the kings and guarantees that their kingdom would endure forever.

Pierpaolo Pasolini, “Medea”, 1969

“I am not attracted by safe games”, Giovanni Corvaja says. One can witness this by looking at the furry bracelet from his new Golden Fleece Collection. It had taken Giovanni 1300 hours of labour and 28 km of almost invisible self-made gold thread to make this unique piece. The bracelet is composed of 1 241 856 fine gold wires, 4000 platinum granules and weighs 324 g. 

Just an example. Anything but a “safe game” indeed.

Giovanni Corvaja is an Italian goldsmith artist well-know worldwide. His pieces have been acquired by the most prestigious museums and collectors in Europe, America and Australia. For Govanni Corvaja, the artistic, formal and technical research has become more than merely a job; it is a mission and philosophy of his life.

His constant research led him, some 12 years ago, to an idea: the creation of the Golden Fleece. This idea evolved from two different influences.

Firstly, in the early ‘90s, Giovanni developed a system that enabled him to reduce gold and platinum to the dimension of one fifth of a human hair. This opened a whole new world of expressive possibilities in the field of jewellery to him. Precious metals turned into delicate fibres under his hands: soft, ethereal matter, very pleasant to the touch, possessing the unique power of symbology and magic of gold. The experience of touching that material was as pleasurable as caressing fur. So, Giovanni became obsessed with a desire to create objects both beautiful, and sensually tactile. “Gold is my obsession, it is a symbol of evolution and perfection, it expresses the best virtue of nature and the creation. It is therefore a necessity for me to work with it, to acquire the maximum possible knowledge of it”.

Moreover, the frequent encounters with the Golden Fleece in his studies on Alchemy provided the other impulse for Giovanni’s creativity. The Golden Fleece was often used as a metaphor for the Philosopher’s Stone, the elixir, the pursuit of perfection through a process of improvement and purification: through labour. This intriguing idea made “the Search of the Golden Fleece” a necessity for him.

Thus, more than ten years ago, Giovanni decided to pursue his dream of finding his Philosopher’s Stone, his Golden Fleece. But he decided to make it instead of looking for it.

The Ancient Greeks said: O Mythos deloi, The Myth teaches. Myth, on the one hand, and Alchemy on the other, helped Giovanni understand what that quest was about: a hermetic journey into the unknown. “I needed all those years to build self-confidence, the knowledge and a clear vision on the matter. I was not ready before. Doubtlessly, the curiosity was the main force that attracted me to this project. Probably an improvement in myself will be the reward.”

The actual making of the gold fur presented many technical obstacles. It had taken Giovanni years of total dedication to overcome all the difficulties. Every single step in the process of making was carried by Giovanni in person. The philosophical attitude towards Craft has helped him to move on. The artist regards the Craft as “a journey, not a destination”: reaching the end is not as important as the way itself. For the pieces of The Golden Fleece Collection that is crucial. Each piece requires thousands of hours of precise labour and hundreds kilometres of gold wire. “I wouldn’t be able to undertake such a commitment if I didn’t appreciate the importance of every moment of it”, he believes.

The new collection of five unique pieces with symbolic forms on the theme is now being presented to the public for the first time. “The shapes I have chosen for my pieces represent eternal symbols that speak directly to the unconscious. They are: fecundity – the egg pendant, prosperity – the round brooch, fidelity – the ring, commitment – the bracelet, strength and perpetuity of power – the head-piece… And many others. The collection is not completed yet though”, explains the goldsmith.

The pieces are definitely not free from their original mythical concept. No more than the Myth is free from the existence of those objects, now. The whole Myth has changed its meaning. The Golden Fleece had always been just an idea, and not the reality. It had never been made before. These pieces are unique. And the beauty of these pieces is unique. Universal.

Prepared by Maria Rubtsova March 2009

Quotes from the Interview with Giovanni Corvaja 2008