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Antonio Corradini (Este 1688 – Naples 1752)
Veiled Woman (The Vestal Virgin Tuccia)
The theme of the veiled woman runs through the sculptor’s whole career. This version, carved in 1743 during his stay in Rome, aroused the wonder of art-lovers and the general public.
The veil, albeit in the elaborate drapery, richly creased and interwoven, is so filmy that it reveals the underlying forms, especially her full breast. The sculptor favored the frontal view, while the part at the back is barely sketched in; yet, depending on the point of view, the statue continually offers new and evocative glimpses.
The iconography of the veil is associated with the themes of modesty and chastity, which play a prominent part in the story of the Vestal Virgin Tuccia. In ancient Rome, the Vestals were a female sacerdotal order entrusted with the task of keeping the fire in the Temple of Vesta burning at all times. The priestesses were under an oath of absolute chastity. If they violated it, they were condemned to be buried alive. Unjustly accused, Tuccia was subjected to an impossible ordeal: she was commanded to gather the waters of the Tiber in a sieve, which you see in her left hand. With the intervention of the goddess Vesta, she was enabled to perform the task and so escape the atrocious sentence.