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The Legend of the Veiled Christ of Sansevero

Uncovering the mystery of one of the world’s most suggestive art pieces.

During the 1700s, Raimondo di Sangro, notable luminary and Prince of Sansevero chose to dedicate himself to greatly beautifying the Sansevero Chapel which was a part of his family’s heritage.

As an inventor and scientist, Raimondo deeply involved himself in the renovation, innovating with his design choices as well as creating the resources required such as paints used in the frescoes. He created an architectural vision faithfully brought to life through his genius and creativity. After defining the design elements, the prince then commissioned artists to bring his vision to life and never shared the secrets of his enigmatic inventions thus adding great mystery to the chapel. His brilliant mind created a monument that is not only full of mystery and beauty but also among the best-preserved of the Baroque Era as well as a part of the world’s artistic heritage.

To achieve this, the polyhedric and mysterious Prince, notable for experimenting in the fields of Art and Science, expressed a strong desire to commission a sculpture of Jesus’s body after the crucifixion which, as he envisioned it, was to be covered by the thinnest of veils.

Originally, the Prince of Sansevero commissioned this marble art from Antonio Corradini who began working on a model of it but died before it could be finished. Thus, Giuseppe Sanmartino was commissioned to continue his work. Choosing to disregard the previous model, Sanmartino created his own version of The Veiled Christ. This 1753 version was to become a gem of Baroque art, made from a single block of marble as requested by Raimondo di Sangro. Its exquisite details amazed physicists and regular people alike who stood in disbelief and suspected that the Prince’s background in Alchemy played a part in the creation of the veil’s transparency.

The sculpture, however, as attested by historians, biographers, physicists and Raimondo di Sangro himself, was indeed fashioned from a single block of marble. Giuseppe Sanmartino’s masterful chiseling created an incredibly delicate veil that is as breathtaking and as mysterious as the one who commissioned it. Its perfection has created a legend around The Veiled Christ’s origins as some thought that the unbelievably transparent, embroidery adorned veil could have only been created through alchemy due to its undeniable perfection and life-like quality.

Besides its awe-inspiring shroud, this Sanmartino masterpiece was skillfully fashioned with other gloriously meticulous details, among which Jesus’ expression, his nail holes and visible wounds, that make this art piece not only lifelike but incredibly powerful in exciting emotion as well as endless beauty.

Sansevero Chapel
Incredible beauty shrouded in mystery seems to be the main quality of the Sansevero Chapel, The Chastity (La Pudicizia) by Corradini, a beautifully veiled art piece in the church, will have you wondering about the sculpting technique behind it as, once again, the transparency and details of the veil give it a life-like quality.

The Release from Deception (Il Disinganno) by Quierolo is yet another single marble block sculpture that is awe-inspiring in its beauty and complexity. 

Yet nothing compares to the centerpiece of the Sansevero Chapel. Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ is the breathtaking masterpiece that will continue to fascinate people for centuries to come, much like the outstanding chapel it was designed for. 

A result of the strong Vision and dedication of a polyhedric nobleman, The Chapel of Sansevero is shrouded in mystery just like its creator and holds a heritage is that is worth visiting for a once in a lifetime experience in Naples.

 

Written by Anamaria Maier

12th Jul 2019