The statues

Francesco Queirolo , 1753-54.

This work was finished by the Genoese Francesco Queirolo at the same time as Disillusion and Education. Liberality is dedicated to the memory of Giulia Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona, wife of the fourth Prince of Sansevero.

The group of statues

The idealised life-sized female figure is easily rendered in the refinement of the face and in the soft folds of the clothing. In her left hand the woman holds a cornucopia overflowing with gold and jewels, while in the right she holds some coins and a compass, emblems of generosity and equilibrium. The eagle, placed symmetrically to the cornucopia, represents strength and temperance, as well as being – according to the mediaeval bestiaries – the only animal capable of looking into the sun.

The meaning of the work

Behind the figure is sculpted in marble – as defined in the Short note, an eighteenth-century guide to the Palace and the Sansevero Chapel – a “kind of pyramid”. It is, to be more precise, one of the four faces of a pyramid with its pyramidion, symbolically completed by the other three faces placed behind the Sweetness of the Marital Yoke, Sincerity and Education. The pyramid is a decorative element frequently used in Western funeral iconography, and according to Ripa’s Iconologia, it is suited to the representation of the “glory of the Princes”.

However, Raimondo di Sangro’s culture, the references he makes in the Lettera Apologetica to Hermes Trismegistus and the works of Athanasius Kircher (famous seventeenth-century Egyptologist) and, lastly, the many elements alluding to the initiatic tradition throughout the Sansevero Chapel lead to the supposition that the presence of the pyramid is a symbolic reference to ancient Egyptian Wisdom and the prisca theologia.