Why were veils popular among 19th-century Italian sculptors? One reason that these figures enjoyed this subject matter is because it allowed them to showcase their artistry.
Achieving the illusion that a solid material like stone is actually a flowing piece of fabric clinging to a body requires a great level of skill. Thus, since ancient times, sculptors have dressed their figures in drapery as a way to spotlight their sculptural prowess. Sculptures from Greece’s Hellenistic period and the Italian Renaissance serve as the most well-known examples of this phenomenon—and, undoubtedly, as inspiration for Strazza and his contemporaries.
“From an archaeological point of view, [the Veiled Virgin‘s veil] stems from the tradition of ‘wet drapery’ that already existed in Greco-Hellenistic sculpture,” Claire Barbillon, the director of the École du Louvre, explains. “Sculptors have always taken on this challenge."