The Cristo Velato is such a masterful depiction of the veiled and scourged Christ in marble that it became the subject of legend, supposedly made by alchemy.
The sculpture was commissioned by Prince of Sansevereo Raimondo di Sangro at first to sculptor Antonio Corradini, but after his sudden passing passed the job onto to Giuseppe Sanmartino. Sango charged the sculptor with producing
“a marble statue sculpted with the greatest realism, representing Our Lord Jesus Christ in death, covered by a transparent shroud carved from the same block of stone as the statue.”
Sanmartino produced a sculpture showing a dead Christ laying on a couch, covered by a veil adhering perfectly to His form. Looking “through” the veil, one can see the suffering Christ had undergone during the Crucifixion. At Christ’s feet are the crown of thorns, pliers, and shackles.
Completed in 1753, the masterclass depiction of the veil over Christ became partly folk legend. It was said Prince Sangro was a famous scientist and alchemist, and taught Sanmartino an alchemical “marblification” process for cloth.
It was believed Sanmartino laid an actual veil over sculpture and over time slowly transformed it into marble to make it the work of art it is today. Today it is on display the Cappella Sansevero Chapel in Naples.