18th-Century Sculpture Has an Amazingly Intricate Carved Marble Net Draped Over It

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There’s no denying the beauty of marble, even in its raw state, but in the hands of the master sculptors of the 18th century its beauty can touch your soul.

One such artist, Francesco Queirolo (1704-1762) born in Genoa, trained under Giuseppe Rusconi in Rome during the Baroque period and sculpted the statues of St. Charles Borromeo and St. Bernard in the façade of Santa Maria Maggiore.

In 1752 at the Cappella Sansevero in Naples, Queirolo started work on Il Disinganno (The Disillusionment) or The Release from Deception, which was dedicated by Raimondo di Sangro to his father Antonio, Duke of Torremaggiore.

Artist Francesco Queirolo (1704–1762) was an Italian Genoese-born sculptor, active in Rome and Naples during the Rococo…

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Sculpted from a single solid block of marble, Il Disinganno shows a fishing net, carved with unbelievable delicate detail, draped over a man, facing an angel. The delicacy and detail of the net became the artist’s legacy and has, over the centuries, left those who viewed the sculpture in awe.

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It took Queirolo seven years to complete and he did it all on his own, without a workshop, an apprentice or artisans skilled in burnishing marble. Even specialized sculptors refused to touch the delicate net in fear of damaging or breaking it, according to the Sansevero Chapel Museum.

Depending on the viewer, the symbolism shown in the sculpture can be interpreted as either biblical or profane: an angel standing on a globe untangles a fisherman caught in a fishing net.

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According to the Museum, the net symbolizes sin. The angel untangles the net and sets the man free, ridding him of his sins and offers him a Bible, resting at his feet. Queirolo accentuates the idea of liberation by adding a Latin passage that reads: “I will break thy chain, the chain of the darkness and long night of which thou art a slave so that thou might not be condemned with this world.”

The sculpture also includes secular symbols such as the flame on the angel’s head which represents human intellect and the globe signifies worldly passions. Altogether, the symbols match Raimondo’s dedication to his father, the idea of “human fragility, which cannot know great virtues without vice.”

Sansevero Chapel was built by John Francesco di Sangro in the late 16th century and became a family burial site in 1613. Family members would commission contemporary sculptors to design tributes to those laid to rest at the Chapel, as a result, Francesco Queirolo’s masterpiece is not the only famous artwork at the Chapel. Within these hallowed walls are 30 other works of art, including The Veiled Christ (1753) by Giuseppe Sanmartino and The Veiled Truth (1750) by Antonio Corradini.