The veil in the visual arts!

BY BELISARIO RIGHI



The Veiled Modesty - Antonio Corradini - 1752 - Detail


The veil, diaphanous in itself, has the pre-eminent characteristic of softening the contours of what it surrounds through its transparency. In the figurative arts it is an element of identity modification, the theatrical backdrop, which separates real reality from the imaginary one, offering the artist who adopts it the possibility of portraying images in their most intrinsic essence, regardless of their real phenomenality. Sculpture, Painting and Photography, the three main figurative arts have often made use of them in representations, with different values. Sometimes to hide, other times to disguise and often only to create effects of compositional virtuosity, but the Sculpture is the one that offers the best and most daring interpretations of this technique, also due to the constraints imposed by the limited flexibility of the materials used for the realization of the works. A great contemporary artist, Kevin Francis Gray, in an interview with him said that sculpture on marble presupposes a different method from that on bronze, because while in the first one must remove matter, in the second one must add. In these words, all the difficulty that the sculptor encounters in working a block of stone is described, because it will no longer be possible to add what has been removed. The most beautiful interpretations of veiled images are therefore, without a doubt, those that come to us from marble sculpture.

A particular form of sculpture took hold in the Baroque age. The so-called veiled sculpture, according to whose stylistic features, statues covered with veils were represented, especially on the face. Among the first and undoubtedly the best known among them, was Antonio Corradini (1668 - 1752), very active in Italy, but also in Europe, where he worked for the greatest sovereigns of the time, for the Empress Maria Teresa d ' Austria, for Tsar Peter II the Great and for many noble families. On commission of the noble Raimondo di Sangro Principe di Sansevero he participated in the preparation of the famous San Severo Chapel in Naples, developing various works for it, including The Veiled Modesty, which is said to depict the noblewoman Carlotta Gaetani, wife of Raimondo.


The Veiled Modesty - Antonio Corradini - 1752 - Together



The Veiled Modesty - Antonio Corradini - 1752 - Detail


Of the other works, only a sketch for a Veiled Christ remains, the realization of which never came to light, due to the death of the Artist in 1752. The following year, in 1753, again in the Sansevero Chapel, the Veiled Christ was created by Giuseppe Sanmartino.



Giuseppe Sanmartino (1720 - 17923) The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, one of the greatest masterpieces of sculpture of all time, is located in Naples in the Sansevero chapel, in via Francesco de Sanctis. It is a fascinating and mysterious work. It is said that the marble veil on the body of Christ is actually a fabric veil, transformed into rock thanks to a special liquid invented by the sinister Prince of San Severo, an illustrious alchemist. The discovery of a secret room and some macabre works, visible in the San Severo Chapel, helped to give the Prince and the veiled Christ an aura of mystery. Many, however, argue that the surprising effect is all the result of the talent of the sculptor, on whose realization there are two schools of thought. The first is that the veil effect was obtained through a very fine marble processing, the other is that to obtain this effect a fabric was marbled, with an alchemical procedure carried out by Prince Raimondo of San Severo and subsequently incorporated into the statue by means of a specific procedure of water and mortar. In reality, the sculptor, with exceptional skill, created the work using a single block of marble, as evidenced by documents of the time. The Prince himself in some letters speaks of the veil as made from the same block of marble as the statue representing the body. The Chapel is also worth a visit for the other works present in this small church hidden in the alleys of Naples, a place rich in esoteric and religious symbols. Antonio Canova is said to declare that he would have given ten years of life just to be the sculptor of this incomparable marble. The Marquis de Sade exalted the drapery, the fineness of the veil, the beauty, the regularity of the proportions of the whole. Matilde Serao celebrated all the passion expressed by the features of Christ. Riccardo Muti chose the face of Christ for the cover of his Mozart Requiem. Adonis, one of the greatest contemporary poets, called the Veiled Christ the most beautiful of Michelangelo's sculptures.



The Veiled Christ - Giuseppe Sanmartino - 1753 - Together



The Veiled Christ - Giuseppe Sanmartino - 1753 - Together



The Veiled Christ - Giuseppe Sanmartino - 1753 - Detail




The Veiled Christ - Giuseppe Sanmartino - 1753 - Detail



One of the last works of Giuseppe Sanmartino is The Religion, immaculate and chaste and for this veiled is placed in the monumental cemetery of Trieste, mutilated, damaged and blackened by atmospheric agents, it is in a state of complete abandonment.



The Religion - Giuseppe Sanmartino - 1789


Innocenzo Spinazzi (1726 - 1798) In 1972, at the age of 28, Russian Princess Barbara Jakovlevna Tatisjtjeva died of chest disease. Prince Aleksandr Michajlovich Beloselskij, husband inconsolable and desperate for the untimely death of his wife, wanted her to stand in the cemetery of San Lazzaro in Turin, where the body rested, a funeral monument in the everlasting memory of his beloved wife. The restorer of classical statues Innocenzo Spiazzi was commissioned to carry out the work, for the occasion he replicated a work of his from 1781 carried out for the church of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi in Florence, where it is still preserved today.



The Veiled - Innocenzo Spinazzi - 1781


To the Florentine version, a medallion depicting the Princess, supported by two cherubs and an epigraph with the following verses were added to the base:



Oh, feeling! Feeling! Sweet life of the soul. What heart have you never hit? What is the unfortunate mortal you have never offered the sweet pleasure of shedding tears? And what is the cruel soul that, in front of this monument so simple and pitiful, do not gather with melancholy and do not forgive generously the defects of the bridegroom who raised him?



In 1830, the body, together with its monument, was transferred to the cemetery of San Pietro in Vincoli, which after being closed, was the scene of vandalism and looting, the work was mutilated and deprived of the medallion and the epigraph. Today, after various transfers and vicissitudes, the monument is kept at the GAM (Gallery of Modern Art) in Turin. A legend was born on this statue, known as The Veiled, according to which the ghost of the princess wanders in search of her beloved husband; and many swear to have heard cries of pain coming from the statue and to have seen a beautiful woman, with blond hair and the face of an angel, wandering inconsolably among the tombstones.


The Veiled - Innocenzo Spinazzi - 1781


Raffaele Monti (1818 - 1881) In 1847 the sculptor Raffele Monti created two stupendous sculptures: The Sisters of Mercy and The Veiled Vestal.


The Sisters of Mercy - Raffaele Monti - 1847



The Veiled Vestal - Raffaele Monti - 1847



The Sleep of Pain and The Dream of Joy by Raffaele Monti was exhibited at the London International Exhibition in 1862. The veiled figure of the dream of Joy seems to hover above the sleeping figure of Pain. The apparently lyrical ensemble actually wants to represent the awakening of the Italian political situation and cultural unity, after the proclamation of the kingdom of Italy on March 17, 1861.



The Sleep of Pain and The Dream of Joy - Raffaele Monti - 1861 - Together


The Sleep of Pain and The Dream of Joy - Raffaele Monti - 1861 - Detail



The Sleep of Pain and The Dream of Joy - Raffaele Monti - 1861 - Detail



Giovanni Maria Benzoni (1809 - 1873) Rebecca is the wife of Isaac, son of Abraham (Genesis). She is depicted here in the act of seeing Isaac for the first time. The look, with lowered eyes and the veil covering her face, denote the modesty and shyness of the woman, while the left arm, albeit lowered, slightly away from the body is also a timid gesture of welcome and welcome. The dating of the work is uncertain. Some scholars trace it back to 1863. The Atlanta museum, where the work is located, indicates the year 1864. The Municipality of Songavazzo, where the artist was born, traces it back to 1867.