The marble working has antique roots and the metamorphic rock represents one of the best supports for the sculptors since the beginning of time. Marble has certain features of shininess and translucence which make it perfect to enlighten complex detailing, anatomical subtleness or fluid draping. An extraordinary example of exploitation of all these features of marble is the “Veiled Virgin”, masterpiece from the 19th century realised by the Italian master Giovanni Strazza (1818–1875).
Below: picture by Megapixx shared via Flickr – licence CC-BY SA 2.0
The Veiled Virgin
Despise it is not a very antique example of sculpture, not much is known about the artwork. The historians believe that the Milanese sculptor created the piece during his stay in Rome in 1850 and wanted to metaphorically represent the country, in that period called Risorgimento, Italian Unification epoch. The feminine face represents the Virgin Mary with her eyes shut, head tilted downward, with an expression resembling either the praying or a peaceful sorrow.
Below: picture by Shhewitt shared via Wikipedia – licence CC-BY SA 4.0
The sculpture was realised with the Carrara marble, one of the most precious types for the sculpture of that era. This Tuscan marble was furthermore a classic for the representation of veils, popular theme for the peers of the sculptor Strazza. Amongst the other marble sculptures of that period it can be mention the “Veiled Lady” by Raffaele Monti (1818-1881) and the piece called the same way by Pietro Rossi.
Below: the Veiled Lady, 1845, Castle of Racconigi. Picture by Paolobon shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
Below: the veiled vestal represented in the Chatsworth House by Raffaele Monti. Picture by Sophie234 shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
The Virgin in Canada
The sculpture was sent in Canada in 1856 where the bishop of Terranova John Thomas Mullock, praised the piece with the words:
“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”
Its transfer was documented with great enthusiasm by a local journal, The Newfoundlander:
“To say that this representation surpasses in perfection of art, any piece of sculpture we have ever seen, conveys but weakly our impression of its exquisite beauty. The possibility of such a triumph of the chisel had not before entered into our conception. Ordinary language must ever fail to do justice to a subject like this – to the rare artistic skill, and to the emotions it produces in the beholder”.
In 1862 the Veiled Virgin was moved from the Episcopal Palace of the cathedral of St. John in Terranova and Labrador to the convent of the “Suore della Presentazione”, where it remained ever since.