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The Veiled Christ

Located in the center of the nave of the Sansevero Chapel, the Veiled Christ is one of the most famous and evocative works in the world.  In the intentions of the client, the statue was to be made by Antonio Corradini, who had already sculpted Modesty for the prince.  However, Corradini died in 1752 and had time to finish only a terracotta sketch of Christ, now kept in the Museum of San Martino.

 Thus it was that Raimondo di Sangro commissioned a young Neapolitan artist, Giuseppe Sanmartino, to create ‘a life-size sculpted marble statue, representing Our Lord Jesus Christ dead, covered by a transparent shroud made from the same block as the statue’.

 Sanmartino took little account of the previous sketch by the Venetian sculptor.  As in Modesty, even in the veiled Christ the original stylistic message is in the veil, but the heartbeats and late Baroque sentiments of Sanmartino give the shroud a movement and signification very different from Corradinian canons.  The modern sensibility of the artist sculpts, stripping the lifeless body, which the soft blankets collect mercifully, on which the tormented, convulsive rhythms of the folds of the veil affect a deep suffering, as if the pitiful covering made the poor women even more naked and exposed. limbs, even more inexorable and precise the lines of the tortured body.

 The swollen and still throbbing vein on the forehead, the piercings of the nails on the feet and thin hands, the hollowed out side and finally relaxed in the liberating death are the sign of an intense research that does not give space to preciousness or school canons, even when sculptor meticulously “embroiders” the edges of the shroud or dwells on the instruments of the Passion placed at the feet of Christ.  The art of Sanmartino is resolved here in a dramatic evocation, which makes the suffering of Christ the symbol of destiny and the redemption of all humanity.