Figures of Speech HOME

Home

2018

2017

2016

The month 12

Scrapbook 12

Road to nowhere

Backup hell

Beyond analysis

Winter solstice

Judge Judy

Betjeman Christmas

Veiled Modesty

Energy made easy

Nobel Ceremony 2016

Schober? [9]

The month 11

Scrapbook 11

Word Of The Year

Man and machine

Cognitive dissonance

Schubert trajectory

No change

The month 10

Scrapbook 10

That man again

Freedom of speech

A victim remembers

The conquering hero

Schiaparelli

The Man in Black

Cox and Box

Bees pulling strings

Those formative years

John Dalton

The grape harvest

Babi Yar

Bible studies

Jacobin Conspiracy [6]

The month 09

Scrapbook 09

Wrong again

That Sappho thing

Rustling inspiration

Channelled speech

The houseman's friend

Wishful thinking

Churchill in Zurich

Franz's belljar

The other Spaun

Walking with Walser

Stephen McIntyre

The month 08

Scrapbook 08

Arthur Szyk

Climate alarmism

Citroen DS23

Artificial Intelligence

Portrait of the age

Shipwreck [7]

The month 07

Scrapbook 07

The Bastille Spirit

Classic books

Mechanics

Devaluing the family

Andrea Leadsom

Outrage

Habsburg cradle

UK politics

The month 06

Scrapbook 06

The Chosen Ones

Referendum mop up

Voters

Wonderment

Last words

Gretchen am Spinnrade

The alien hatches

Carbon dioxide

Ignorants

Electoral Commission

Sahra Wagenknecht

The green tick

The month 05

Scrapbook 05

The Sun Queen

Before Schubert [5]

European wars

Timelessness

Saving time

EU referendum

Protestant Ethic [9]

The month 04

Scrapbook 04

Cherry blossom

Dark chocolate

Out of the swamp

Richard North

Do not sleep

Imperial chemistry

Lili Marleen

The Habsburg lip

The month 03

Scrapbook 03

Bedsheet, spreadsheet

French dodo

Lenten thoughts

Heinrich Heine

The great survivor

The Swiss muddle

Hans Erni

Switzerland defused

Tristram's bad start

Montségur [5]

The month 02

Scrapbook 02

Frosty wreck

Language lab

Referendum reloaded

Graven images

Die Forelle [5]

The grass on the weirs

The month 01

Rabid lexicography

Not like us

Language lab

IKEA's loose screw

Nathan's rings

Brief Encounter II

Mohammed, not my prophet

Lunatic calendars

Hidden Hemingway

Sharing the risk

Bathtime for St. Kevin

The dismal science

The below above

Sanitised swearing

Souvenirs

Rockers do it better

2015


Updated content

Contents list

Site search

Blogroll

About


Schubert collection

Home | 2016

'Modesty' – or not, as the case may be

Posted by Mad Mitch on UTC 2016-12-17 09:30.

A stunningly skilful piece of Rococo carving by the Venetian sculptor, Antonio Corradini (1688-1752), executed in 1752, the last year of his life. The piece is in the Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples. Images: ©L’Atlante dell’arte italiana.

The piece is titled Pudicizia/Modesty, which is quite perplexing given the model's impressive physique under the wonderful transparent rendering of the clinging veil. The title is absurd – absurd enough to have lasted more than 250 years.

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

The work is ostensibly a memorial to Cecilia Gaetani dell'Aquila d'Aragona, the mother of Raimondo de Sangro, the person who paid for it. She died in 1710 when her son was one year old, just about the time when Corradini was beginning his career. It cannot therefore be a figurative life model of her and Raimondo would have been a very strange son indeed if he had wanted his deceased mother represented like this.

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

The statue must of course be an allegory, the schematic face alone tells us that. But an allegory of what?. The brains of the Italian art world review the symbols in the piece –  the roses (?) across the lower abdomen, almost as though they had just been gathered and laid in the fold of the veil; the vine stock (?) and the oak branch (?) bursting out of the marble; the broken inscription tablet  – and… take a guess. 'Wisdom', 'Isis', 'Life and Death', 'Fertility', 'Motherhood', 'Persephone'… any more?

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

One allegory it is definitely not is 'Modesty'.

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

Corradini was a Freemason, so who knows what strange associations had lodged themselves in his head? Without claiming to have found a solution to the puzzle, this work calls to mind a few lines by the Victorian poet George Meredith (1828-1909), which describe an allegorically personified 'Nature' – Rococo in language, if you will, meeting Rococo in image:

'I play for Seasons; not Eternities!'
Says Nature, laughing on her way. 'So must
All those whose stake is nothing more than dust!'
And lo, she wins, and of her harmonies
She is full sure! Upon her dying rose
She drops a look of fondness, and goes by,
Scarce any retrospection in her eye;
For she the laws of growth most deeply knows,
Whose hands bear, here, a seed-bag—there, an urn.

George Meredith, Modern Love, (1862), Poem XIII, lines 1-9.

In Corradini's figure, 'Nature' gathers her roses in her right hand, our view tracks across the swash of the veil until we see her left hand, which holds a rose, the leaves of which have wilted down the broken edge of the memorial tablet.

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

Perhaps all this theorising is wrong: perhaps he was just showing off – nice female, nice flowers, nice vine, spectacular veil effect – which is what he indubitably did in this work anyway. As a sculptural act, the piece is in no way 'modest'.

Antonio Corradini, 'La Pudicizia', 1752, Sansevero Chapel Museum, Naples

We could argue that 'showing off skills' is actually a good definition for 'Rococo'. Corradini had developed the 'veiled look' in some previous works and this turned out to be the last and the most accomplished of the series.

Whilst on the subject of Corradini we note that he spent a good part of his career working in the Austrian Empire. He it was, indeed, who sculpted the design for the grave monument of Saint John of Nepomuk in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert in Prague, which was then executed in silver – an outstanding example of Catholic economic excess which we discussed in the context of the lack of the Protestant Ethic in the Empire.