Art is a part of the life of both the individual and society as a whole. It brings joy, pleasure, but sometimes sadness because it is the highest form of self-expression. And the human being is the bearer of a wide range of emotions that are not locked only in the specter of happiness. The most important thing for art is to make an impact. Whether it is in a positive or negative direction. Art should provoke emotion in the observer. It must excite, captivate. If a work of art does not provoke any emotion, reflection, or dialogue, then its creator has failed to achieve the ultimate goal.
In this article, we will talk about an exceptional work of art. It is aerobatics in sculpture and you certainly can not remain indifferent to it – the Veiled Christ of Giuseppe Sanmartino. In the previous month, we introduced you to another veiled statue – The Veiled Virgin. Like her, this unusual sculpture of Jesus Christ is a mystique. It captivates, provokes, excites. There is such an
emotion in it that cannot be described in words alone. But before we tell you more about the sculpture, let’s introduce you to the author himself.
Giuseppe Sanmartino was an Italian sculptor during the Rococo period. He was born in Naples in the distant 1720s. His sculptural style could be characterized by the fact that he combined sentimental poses, expressive facial features, and delicate marble carvings. He was extremely popular with the Bourbon court since the eighteenth century in Naples. All his sculptures are mostly religious. In addition to large religious sculptures, Sanmartino also created monumental figures, decorative sculptures, and portraits for tombstones. In 1772 he began his teaching career at the Real Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples. Towards the end of his life, he also designed a silver sculpture. After all, the work with which Sanmartino managed to become famous is his sculpture The Veiled Christ – one of
the most famous and impressive works of art in the world.
In fact, the execution of the sculpture The Veiled Christ itself was originally entrusted to the sculpture of Antonio Corradini, but very soon after receiving the assignment he died. He left behind only a model that is made of terracotta and is now stored in the San Martino Museum. After Corradini’s death, the sculpture was commissioned by Giuseppe Sanmartino, who was expected to make a life-size marble sculpture to represent the dead Jesus Christ, covered with a transparent veil sculpted from a block of marble. It is a well-known fact that Antonio Canova (another famous artist whose works can be seen at the Louvre) says after a glance at the Veiled Christ, that he would give ten years of his life to make a sculpture that looks at least a little like this one. Today, the sculpture of Sanmartino can be seen in Naples in the chapel of San Severo, in front of the main altar.
The sculpture itself actually recreates the dead Christ lying on a mattress and covered with a veil that fits perfectly to the curves of his body. Thanks to his skills, Sanmartino recreates the suffering that Christ experienced. Under the veil, he clearly stands out and his face is clearly visible, as well as his body. Even the traces of Christ’s martyrdom are noticeable.
At his feet, at the end of the sculpture, the master carves the tools used for Christ’s torture: a crown of thorns, pliers, and nails. The masterful workmanship of the veil that covers the body is the reason why a legend has emerged over the centuries. According to this legend, the client who commissioned the sculpture, who was a famous scientist and alchemist, Raimondo di Sangro, showed Sanmartino how to transform the fabric into marble crystals. For about three centuries, the veil was believed to be the result of alchemical marbling process, but this belief was later refuted. The sculpture of Jesus Christ radiates such sensuality and deep suffering that both those feelings can penetrate the observer himself. Even the swollen vein that still pulsates on Christ’s forehead, the wounds from the nails on his feet, his thin hands, and the sunken side, finally relaxed in the embrace of death, are a sign of intense search and a symbol of the destiny and redemption of the whole humanity.
Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Sculpted Christ sculpture is truly a masterpiece of art that must be seen.