The High Priestess

The Epitomic High Priestess - Veiled Lady by Raffaelo Monti

The Epitomic High Priestess – Veiled Lady by Raffaelo Monti (click to view original)

Veiled Lady, c. 1860 21 1/2 in. (54.61 cm)
Raffaelo Monti
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

In Italy during the 1700s, sculptures of veiled figures peaked in popularity, affording artists the chance to demonstrate their ability to delicately carve marble. Nearly two hundred years later, artists revived this technically demanding tradition in reaction to the academic neoclassicism of the early-19th century. Raffaelo Monti is known for marble busts draped in filmy veils such as this one. Here the veil is secured by a garland of morning glories. The heightened realism and sensuous appeal of 19th-century figures made sculpture once again a fashionable decorative element in upper-middle-class houses.

This sculpture of a veiled woman – possibly a Vestal Virgin – whispers “High Priestess” to me. Marble – perfectly cool, perfectly white, perfectly smooth. It has an inner sacredness that at once invites touch and forbids it. Marble, in the hands of a master, makes you want to drop to your knees and avert your eyes. Weep. I’ve only ever seen one marble sculpture up close – a Rodin – and it was hypnotic. I felt like if I reached out, I would sink in; just sink in to the milky surface. It seemed to breathe, or to be paused between breaths and the next inhale would be inescapable. It was alive. I will never get over how stone can be coaxed into falling in soft fabric folds. It takes a truly visionary artist to understand and reveal the secret life within stone.

A. Andrew Gonzalez is a visionary artist whose work always seems to me to have been sculpted out of marble (he works in airbrush and pencil). It has the same… translucency, that light that shines – impossibly – from within. Very tarot-worthy – you could get lost in his images for days.

The Full Moon has worked its usual asshattery on me. Solution? Contemplate the High Priestess in her untouchable silence ’til balance is restored.

9 thoughts on “The High Priestess

    • submerina says:

      I nearly did :D But I knew it would be pushing things a little too far for the relatives. I did get married in red & black though, avec knee high boots woooooo! And how you turn marble into gossamer is one of the mysteries of the universe.


    • submerina says:

      Oooooh, I’m just a *little* bit jealous ;) I found out on Saturday that the Museum of Fine Art in Montreal hosted a William Morris exhibition from October 09 through Feb 7 (Sunday) – !!!! It was within reach (nearly…) and I missed it :(


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