The Veiled LadyThe original Veiled Lady was created by Raffaelo Monti.
Recently we experienced some eerie happenings at Kendal museum. It all began with an enquiry from a member of the public about a sculpture of a “veiled lady”. With no recollection of this item, we had to apologise and explain that there was nothing of the sort documented in our system, as well as no knowledge of anything similar in our storerooms. Even though the enquirer was insistent that the item was with us, these kinds of queries are frequent occurrences for us, therefore, the matter was forgotten.
A couple of days later Carol Davies, curator manager, discovered some mysterious unlabelled boxes in the downstairs store. Carol randomly took a box from the shelf. Opening it, she uncovered a ceramic bust of an unknown woman, her forlorn expression semi concealed behind a flower adorned veil. “I was shocked,” Carol says, “it was so odd”. Neither she, nor anyone else, had ever seen her, despite working at Kendal Museum for many years.
“She was very beautiful. We unwrapped her and for the first time she saw the light of day.” The Veiled Lady must have been hidden away, hibernating on the shelf in her box for decades. That sounds a shame for an object of such exquisiteness; perhaps she wasn’t ready to be seen and was waiting for the right time. But why now? Carol says, “I’m not saying there was anything ghoulish spooky about it, but it was almost as if there was a sixth sense, as if I had been meant to choose that box.”
The Veiled Lady now sits on a windowsill, accompanied by our small-scale model of The Dying Gaul. The two complement one another, as if they were meant to sit side by side; both beautiful, sorrowful, and figures of mortality. Carol looks past the melancholia, recognising The Veiled Lady for her femininity and ornate charm. “Lots of people have complimented her on her beauty and how she has a serene aura about her,” she says, and it’s impossible to disagree.
The original Veiled Lady was created by Raffaelo Monti, a sculptor celebrated for his revival of the stylized eighteenth century tradition of veiled portraiture, which was a difficult art form only
the best marble sculptors could successfully execute. His subject was a young virgin, whose likeness was depicted before her wedding day, her woeful expression being a topic of discussion for hundreds of years. The veil she’s wearing juxtaposes life and death; the graceful nature of the material represents new life and beauty, yet the concealment of her face is a symbol of fading beauty and mortality. Furthermore, the garland expresses femininity and purity, which is perhaps why the museum needs her. “We have a lot of items which portray women in a negative light – violent, torturous, objects which have been used on women throughout history. But The Veiled Lady is an object of comeliness, and has a calming effect, so she counter balances that.”