Blind sculptor recreates untouchable masterpiece

Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:02am EST
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By Barbara Cornell

SALA BOLOGNESE, Italy (Reuters) - When blind sculptor Felice Tagliaferri was forbidden to touch one of Italy's most famous statues, he decided revenge was best served not just cold but stone cold.

Tagliaferri, 41, spent much of two years creating his marble interpretation of "Cristo Velato," or "Veiled Christ," a 1753 masterpiece that he has neither seen nor touched.

Giuseppe Sanmartino's exquisitely detailed sculpture of the body of Christ lying wrapped in a fine shroud is one of the prime tourist attractions in Naples.

Busloads of blind and disabled people from throughout Italy came to Tagliaferri's studio near Bologna in northern Italy to take symbolic taps on his chisels. The result is a powerfully rendered life-sized Jesus that Tagliaferri punningly calls "Cristo (ri)Velato," or "Christ Revealed."

"There are so many messages. One is that a block of marble isn't ruined when it is lightly touched by expert hands," he said.

"Second, the disabled are sick and tired of waiting for others to decide and tell them what they can and cannot do."

In May 2008, Tagliaferri visited the Sansevero Chapel, eager to experience its famous "Veiled Christ" in the only way a blind person can: by touching it. He was blocked, he said, first by a guard and then by the administration, despite his protests that he was a professional sculptor who would do no damage.

Now, he is savoring a triumphal return to Naples when "Christ Revealed" begins a national tour at the Royal Palace from February 26 to March 13. The pope is expected to see it in Ancona on September 11. The statue will also travel to Messina, Rimini and Siena.   Continued...