Think of the epic difficulty of modelling a veil on a face of a material that is among the toughest on the planet, marble (mineral hardness 3 – Friedrich Mohs scale ) . Another problem is that marble has nothing added. It is a sculpture made by subtracting 100 % .
Antonio Corradini played a huge role in solidifying the role of sculptors as ‘artists’ in the early 18th century. In 1723 he is supposed to have been the first person to legally separate the professions of sculptors and stonemasons, creating a school for sculptors and developing it as an official artistic profession.
His “Portrait of Modesty” (below) lives in the Naples museum, Cappella Sansevero, and her posture and accessories make it look like she was made for a church, even though she’s nearly naked through that thin thin veil – standing casually beautiful with eyes closing.
My favourite is “The abduction of Persephona”
In Greek mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation.
Wonder at the texture of skin in the following sculpture by Lorenzo Berdini , which depicts the abduction of Persephone. Look at the finger pressure on the skin.
The sculptor (Giovanni Bernini) was only 23 years old when he made it in 1621.
Raffaele Monti — The Sleep of Sorrow and the Dream of Joy
The son of a sculptor, Monti was trained in Milan, but came to London in 1846, and eventually settled there from 1848 until his death. He specialised in carving illusionistic veiled marble figures, ultimately derived from the work of the Venetian sculptor Antonio Corradini.
Undine Rising from the Waters, by Chauncey Bradley
The subject of this sculpture is traced to medieval legends. Undines, soulless and mortal, were Mediterranean sea sprites. According to the museum’s website, “to gain a soul and, with it, immortality, an undine had to take on human form and trick a man into marrying her. She could then leave the sea, but only as long as her mate remained true. If he were to discover her real identity and reject her, she would have to destroy him.”
The sculpture captures a moment of the undine as she rises from the fountain and assumes human form. “See-through illusionism” is exhibited in the way her wet and clinging gown almost emphasizes her figure, rather than covering her nudity.
“A sculptor is a person obsessed with the form and shape of things, and it’s not just the shape of one thing, but the shape of anything and everything; the hard, tense strength, although delicate form of a bone; the strong, solid fleshiness of a beech tree trunk.” Henry Moore
Ugolino and his sons
Dante’s Divine Comedy has always enjoyed favor in the plastic arts. Ugolino, the character that galvanized peoples’ fantasies and fears during the second half of the nineteenth century, appears in Canto 33 of the Inferno. This intensely Romantic sculpture derives from the passage in which Dante describes the imprisonment in 1288 and subsequent death by starvation of the Pisan count Ugolino della Gherardesca and his offspring. Carpeaux depicts the moment when Ugolino, condemned to die of starvation, yields to the temptation to devour his children and grandchildren, who cry out to him:
But when to our somber cell was thrown
A slender ray, and each face was lit
I saw in each the aspect of my own,
For very grief both of my hands I bit,
And suddenly from the floor arising they,
Thinking my hunger was the cause of it,
Exclaimed: Father eat thou of us, and stay
Our suffering: thou didst our being dress
In this sad flesh; now strip it all away.
Carpeaux’s visionary composition reflects his reverence for Michelangelo, as well as his own painstaking concern with anatomical realism. Ugolino and His Sons was completed in plaster in 1861, the last year of his residence at the French Academy in Rome. A sensation in Rome, it brought Carpeaux many commissions. Upon his return to France, Ugolino was cast in bronze at the order of the French Ministry of Fine Arts and exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1863. Later it was moved to the gardens of the Tuilieries, where it was displayed as a pendant to a bronze of the Laocoön. This marble version was executed by the practitioner Bernard under Carpeaux’s supervision and completed in time for the Universal Exposition at Paris in 1867. The date inscribed on the marble refers to the original plaster model’s completion.