The Veiled Christ in Naples

christ marble statue

Naples is best known for its chaos and pizza, but it is also home to quite a few artistic treasures. One of my favorite sculptures in all of Italy is in a small chapel in the center of Naples: the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino.

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#CristoVelatoNotebook Per la rubrica #CristoVelatoNotebook riportiamo le parole della celebre attrice italiana Monica Guerritore, che in un intervento pubblico del 2011 si è soffermata sul Cristo in marmo di Giuseppe Sanmartino: “Non so se l'avete visto, è un capolavoro assoluto, è un corpo-anima che si vela, e fa crescere le cose al suo interno, come se avesse dentro un altro luogo, un altro spazio. Ed è proprio lì che aspetta il nostro talento. Quel luogo, altro, esiste in ognuno di noi, e aspetta…”. [ph. Marco Ghidelli] . . . . . . #cappellasansevero #napoli #italy #cristovelato #veiledchrist #raimondodisangro #pudicizia #disinganno #sanseverochapel #museum #museums #art #architecture #artist #paint #painting #instaart #arte #artwork #igers #igersnapoli #igerscampania #museo #beniculturali30 #museitaliani #maggioalmuseo

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The Veiled Christ is renowned because it seems almost impossible. How can a sculptor make marble seem transparent? Yet this is exactly what Sanmartino has achieved with his masterpiece – Christ laid down, covered in a shroud that seems so real but so thin that we can still see his still features.

The sculpture is found in the Sansevero Chapel (Museo Cappella Sansevero in Italian). Sometimes known by the church’s name Santa Maria della Pietà or Pietatella, the chapel was built at the end of the 16th century. However, it didn’t take on its most interesting details and artistry until the 1700s.

Between 1740 and 1780, Raimondo di Sangro, prince of Sansevero, completely reconstructed the chapel. He commissioned the Veiled Christ sculpture and Sanmartino’s creation quickly became famous. It was so remarkable that some people believed it was created by alchemy. This rumor probably partly stems from the fact that the Prince of Sansevero was himself an alchemist, in addition to being Grand Master of the Freemasons, a patron of the arts, and an inventor.

Canova, one of the best sculptors in Italy, was absolutely taken by the marble work and tried for years to recreate it.

I was disappointed that no photos were allowed inside the extraordinary church because it is filled with Baroque beauty and imaginative creations. However, this simply gives you more time to focus on what is right in front of you. 

In addition to the Veiled Christ, there are numerous other paintings and sculptures that seem impossible. My favorite was a saint draped in a marble net – how difficult it must have been to create that out of stone.

Want to keep exploring? The Palazzo Reale and Santa Chiara are two other must sees when you visit Naples. Of course, a food tour is highly recommended, as well. 

Photo by: By David Sivyer from United Kingdom – Cappella Sansevero, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

4 thoughts on “The Veiled Christ in Naples

  1. Dario says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Natalie.
    The San Severo chapel really is one of the hidden jewels of Italy (and Naples) and the Veiled Christ one of its most astonishing masterpieces.
    I’m frequently surprised by how few people, even in Italy, are however of this site.
    Your blog’s popularity perhaps will correct that. 🙂

    • Natalie says:

      Thank you for the update! This is true of all museums in Italy at the moment as we navigate post-covid19 life

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