The Veiled Virgin: Carrara Marble Sculpture In The World Of Art

By. Ran

The art of sculpting holds a special place amongst all forms of art. It encapsulates feelings, sensuality, aesthetics, subtlety, and mastery all at once. And this particular sculpture, The Veiled Virgin, a 19th Century piece by Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza, is one that defines the art of sculpting.

It looks like the sculpture is covered with a delicate fabric but a closer look shows that the veil is not fabric but rather marble. That’s the mastery of The Veiled Virgin and its creator Italian artist Giovanni Strazza.

Giovanni Strazza’s ‘The Veiled Virgin’ (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Marble has always been preferred by artists since the earliest of times. Marble allows subtle delicacy and intricacy in detail and this sculpture artistically proves that. The translucent marble veil is the most outstanding feature of the sculpture.

Giovanni Strazza’s ‘The Veiled Virgin’ (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Giovanni Strazza

Strazza was born in Milan in 1818 and died there in 1875. Unlike the other artists of Renaissance Italy, his life and career has not been recorded for a great extent. What we know is that he was a student at the Accademia di Belle Arte di Brera in Milan, and that he worked in Rome between 1840 and 1858. He also taught in his alma mater after that.

He is best known for his Veiled Virgin, which was carved out of the famous Carrara marble. It is believed to have been completed in the early years of the 1850s, and Strazza was working in Rome at the time. The statue was then transported to Canada and was received by John Thomas Mullock, the Roman Catholic bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1856. That is when Strazza’s Veiled Virgin became known as the St. John’s Veiled Virgin. The statue was kept in the Episcopal Palace adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s.

An entry in the bishop’s diary (4th of December 1856) says:

“Received safely from Rome, a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in marble, by Strazza. The face is veiled, and the figure and features are all seen. It is a perfect gem of art.”

Raffaelo Monti

Apart from Strazza, both Rafaello Monti and Pietro Rossi also have sculptures featuring women with heads covered in see-through fabric.

As the Veiled Virgin is made by an Italian artist, it is often assumed that it resides in Italy. But the truth is, it is kept in Canada. In fact, Strazza’s masterpiece was first housed in the Episcopal Palace next to St. John’s Basilica in Canada before it was transferred to the nearby Presentation Convent.

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