The art of sculpture is one of the most ancient, certainly when including the primitive forms of certain prehistoric carvings. It's permanence marks it as a form for the ages. In more recent times though, sculptures have become increasingly intricate, saying as much about the artist as their art.
The Italian's have perfected many things. Automobiles, coffee, football, food and art. Sculpture, in particular, is held in high regard in Italy as the pieces are usually situated in the Holiest of places - churches. One of these particular churches, the Cappella Sansevero in Naples, houses a barely believable piece of marble mastery.
Sculptures that include textiles like veils or clothes, often have an element of detail that even bodies don't. Making something that's associated with being alive seem alive is one thing. But making a piece of fabric on that person seem equally as alive is something else entirely.
The piece titled Il Disinganno by sculptor Francesco Queirolo often leaves visitors perplexed by its absorbing beauty and intimate detail. Depicting a moment of religious intimacy between two subjects, its a marble sculpture that would just as easily blend in with the rest hadn't one of them been draped in a thick knotted net. If this was a separate piece of stone, it'd be a little more believable too. Only it isn't. It's all from the same block.
The draped figure is breaking free, symbolising an awakening from circumstance. The other figure is an angel, the emancipator. The thick confines of the net represent the sins he has accumulated since his birth. Depicting sin correctly was obviously important to Queirolo who spent around seven years on the masterpiece.
It's a true exercise in patience and pride. Depicting such a monumentally symbolic image required someone with the Italian sculptor's willingness and sense of artistry. Knowing full well where it was going and for how long it would stand, Queirolo etched himself into the annals of history, portraying almost as much of himself as subject in the sculpture.
Breaking things away, bit-by-bit, the artist sat hunched over the piece. Any error would be as good as fatal. In constructing the physical object, he was adding a story to it. Rich in symbolic references (a flame on the angel's head representing knowledge and wisdom, the globe below the angel showing his standing as otherworldly), it can be seen as a narrative addition to religious art canon.
So delicate was the construction that the sculptor himself put in all of the finishing touches, something usually left for other talented craftsmen. It was too daunting a task for them, the nets precarious frailty would accept only the deftest of touches. It's a lesson that works both in an artistic context, yet also as an extended metaphor for the effects of intense work, pride and sense of perfectionism. He told a story, but also left a message. True artists don't create for now, they create for forever.
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