Antonio Corradini (1688-1752) revolutionized the sculpted marble figure and the intimacy of ecstasy incarnate. His work marvels throughout the world today, in collections all over Europe displaying exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail that parallels to the Greats we know today – like Bernini, Coustou, and Rodin. Corradini’s work is not as well-known - mostly due to his patronage in Czech Republic and Hungary. But when this patronage came to an end in the 1740’s, he flourished as a true Italian sculptor and created the majority of his Veiled Women statues.
Corradini was a court sculptor for most of his life, and his patrons were among the most powerful people in the world. When he was just 21, he was commissioned to work with other sculptors on the San Stae church in his hometown. This catapulted his career, and within 2 years he had his own studio in Venice, employing multiple assistants for his future commissions.
Corradini’s most famous works, the Veiled Figures (1700’s) were being worked on through his entire career, in conjunction with other architectural and statuary pieces. He explored the notion of female modesty, religious purity, and internal angst through simultaneously tense and delicate forms. There has been much debate over the veiling of the female face – erasing her identity and marring her from view. Nonetheless, this body of work has marvelled for centuries because of its technical virtuoso.
On the other hand, the veil preserves the woman’s purity, a common ideology of the age that was adopted by many artists. As in Bust of a Veiled Woman (1725) her eyes are closed and she bows her head in prayer. She seems as though she is having a conversation with her God, and the intimacy is electric. Her bosom is revealed, a known nuance that Corradini used but Bernini shied away from.
Below we can see the distinct parallels between the passion of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel and the well-known Modesty done later in Corradini’s career. Bernini’s canonical work is lifted above the viewer, much like Corradini’s upon its pedestal.
Each one offers its own tension: Ecstasy’s explosive moment from the divine’s piercing arrow, and Modesty’s play between the revealed and the hidden.
By comparing Corradini’s predecessors to his own body of work, we can see the boundaries that he pushed to explore the statue’s role in the church. Modesty, also known as Veiled Truth, was placed as a marker for Cecilia Gaetini dell’Aguila d’Aragona’s tomb in the Cappella Sansevero (Naples). And although it seems a bizarre way to honour a noblewoman’s legacy, the statue poses before her tomb with an unapologetic truth and protection. And as we look to works like Tuccia La Velata (1742) for answers to these mystery figures, they look upon us with braced arms and intense eyes, embodying the greatness of Michelangelo’s David.
When we are confronted with the technical beauty of the veiled women, it’s hard to imagine the solid rock from which it came. Corradini’s perfect hand and nuances within the folds of the fabric are so meticulously placed, they form an illusion of light-weight silk. The woman underneath is engrossed in her private moment, always focused, poised in the realm of the divine and intangible. And when we look to Corradini’s work for its beauty, we also have a glimpse into - then fleeting - the world of Italian masters.
[Image Credit: public domain]
Posted on January 16, 2016 in The Arts Loft by Brittany Gerow