Art Beyond Words: The Veiled Christ

The Veiled Christ Giuseppe Sanmartino Cappella Sansevero, Naples.

The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, 1753

Even Antonio Canova was envious of this sculpture. That’s saying a lot.

The Story Behind The Veiled Christ (from Museo Cappella Sansevero)

Placed at the centre of the nave of the Sansevero Chapel, the Veiled Christ is one of the most famous and impressive works of art in the world. It was the Prince’s wish that the statue be made by Antonio Corradini, who had already done Modesty for him. However, Corradini died in 1752 and only managed to make a terracotta scale model of the Christ, which is now preserved in the Museo di San Martino.

So Raimondo di Sangro appointed a young Neapolitan artist, Giuseppe Sanmartino, to make “a life-sized marble statue, representing Our Lord Jesus Christ dead, and covered in a transparent shroud carved from the same block as the statue”.

 

The Veiled Christ Front View

Front view. Notice his crown of thorns and the nails.

 

The sculpture was so unbelievable, they thought it was magic.

Legend of the Veil (from Wikipedia)

Over the centuries, the masterful depiction of the veil has acquired a legend, in which the original commissioner of the sculpture, the famous scientist and alchemist Raimondo di Sangro teaches the sculptor how to transform cloth into crystalline marble. For about three centuries, in fact, many visitors to the Cappella, amazed by the veiled sculpture, erroneously believed it to be the result of an alchemical “marblification” performed by the prince, who was meant to have laid a real veil on the sculpture and to have transformed this into marble over time by means of a chemical process.

In reality, a close analysis leaves no doubt that the work was entirely produced in marble and this is also confirmed by some letters written at the time of its production.

The Veiled Christ head detail.

This is an example of the divine art that inspired The Sculptor series.

Could you find words to describe it?

 

Photo credits

Pixshark

Wikipedia

Museo Capella Sansevero