Christ Revealed

by Loretta Secchi

On Felice Tagliaferri's sculpture.


Whomever knows sculptor Felice Tagliaferri, blind since the age of 14, is aware that for this dynamic and positive person, nothing is impossible, not even creating the copy of a universal masterpiece such as the Veiled Christ by eighteenth-century sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino, a work of art representing the Redeemer in full size, lying on a bed enshrouded in a very subtle veil through which transpires his lifeless anatomy. At the beginning of Felice Tagliaferri's endeavour, there is a personal story worth telling, and a courage sustained by the strong willpower to "give shape to dreams" which comes from the love and generosity with which this sculptor faces life. In the spring of 2008, Felice was forbidden to touch Sanmartino's sculpture which was in the care of the Sansevero Basilica in Naples. So, without making a fuss about it, he came up after a while with the idea to sculpt in marble an interpretated version of the Veiled Christ, in the same dimensions as the original, to make it tangible to blind persons and therefore accessible to all. Chosen in Carrara, the piece of marble was roughed out on-site in a few days and then transported in the workwhop of the Chiesa dell'Arte (Church of Art) in Sala Bolognese, where the work of art saw the light: eighteen months of work have transformed the forty quintals of marble into a sculpture extraordinarily well defined, weighing eighteen quintals and measuring 180 x 80 x 50 cm. Through this experience, Felice went through the whole spectrum of emotions possible before such a decisive challenge, between enthusiasm, joy and concern. Listening to his tale, we discover how the artist, at first intimidated, has gradually gathered courage in the creation of his sculpture, also thanks to the visits of his friends and the confidence growing around him, as an effect of the obvious and contagious belief that guided him in the accomplishment of this wonderful work of art. At the Chiesa dell'Arte, where Felice offers courses in sculpting and modelling for schools, the Christ was indeed revealed, therefore "veiled for the second time", but also revealed in the more profound sense, and for that reason unveiled.

Picture - Blind person being guided to feel the work of art

When Felice was interviewed, he explained this concept in words that we wish to quote: "Recreating this lifeless Christ, so powerful in his physicality, I revealed to myself and to the world his body, giving form to the mental image that had developed through the descriptions I heard. Elaborating the image, I interiorized it and took possession of it, therefore I took care of it and then transfered it to marble, offering the public my vision of the veiled Christ, at the same time revealed. In the last phase of the process, when the work of art was in its last stages, I wanted to involve schools, people living with vision loss and other disabilities, and finally non-disabled people of all ages and every origin, so that everyone could participate in this creative act, exactly as I had hoped and desired". When we touch the body of the Revealed Christ, entirely covered with a veil of marble, we perceive in fact the dramatic grace of his face, the built of his chest, the prominence of his ribs, his sunken abdomen, the inert members, and we have the impression of a body immersed in a profound sleep, with a possibility of awakening. The idea of life in death, understood as the hope for resurrection, accompanies and sustains us. The exhibition of the sculpture is of an itinerant nature in order to spread everywhere the message on the accessibility of art. On November 27th, 2010, at the Chiesa dell'Arte in Sala Bolognese, the artwork was inaugurated on the occasion of an unforgettable and touching ceremony, in the presence of authorities and a large audience.

On February 26th, 2011, in Naples, at the National Archaeology Museum, the sculpture of Christ Revealed was inaugurated again on the occasion of a second exhibition; introducing a convention on accessibility L'arte uguale per tutti (Art is equal for everyone). In that particular instance, the guides from Naples' UNIVOC were blind and low vision and they are the ones who led visitors to the tactile exploration of the sculpture. Between March and April, the artwork was exposed to the public in Messina's dome. From June 20th to the 25th, the sculpture was in Bologna at the Institute for the Blind Francesco Cavazza, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 130th anniversary of the Institution. From Augusut 21st to 28th, the artwork was at the Rimini Meeting where 50,000 people saw it, among the visitors was Cardinal Io Tettamanzi. From September 13th to October 16th, the sculpture was exhibited at the Church of San Domenico, at Ancona. It must be said that Roberto Farroni, Director and President of the Tactile State Museum at Ancona, who recently passed away, had done all he could to have the sculpture in his city of origin and he worked tenaciously until the artwork received the benediction of the Holy Father. The awaited event took place on September 11th, in the presence of sculptor Felice Tagliaferri who was able to meet Benedict XVI, in a personal and human way. The sculpture will continue on its exhibition tour whether in Italy or elsewhere, conveying to everyone the values for which sculptor Felice Tagliaferri has created it.

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