“Disinganno”, or “Release from Deception” by sculptor Francesco Queirolo is one of the three masterpieces that decorate the Sansevero Chapel in Naples (the others being the “Veiled Christ” by Sanmartino and the “Veiled Truth” by Corradini).
The 16th-century church, now deconsecrated, was completed in the second half of the 1700s thanks to prince Raimondo di Sangro, who turned it into an artistic family mausoleum.
Writer Matilde Serao saw it as an actual tomb, where everything “is freezing, quiet, and coldly sepulchral”. And moving from one sepulcher to the next, she noted “statues and allegorical groups, always in that interior, cold marble […]. The last one, poetically, is ‘Release from Deception’ – a man fighting to extricate himself from a tight net that completely envelops him. A singular closure of life, a singular term for all sublimities, all passions, all loves. Release from deception – and nothing more.”
The man fighting to break free from the net is helped by an angel, symbol of human intelligence.
Sansevero was an eclectic intellectual, an inventor, alchemist and freemason who often attracted negative attention from the Inquisition. He ordered the statue from Genoese artist Queirolo to celebrate his father, Antonio di Sangro: a man who had led a dissolute life (even resorting to murder twice), but repented for his wicked past and spent the last days of his life in a convent.
Queirolo proved his incredible technical skill in this work, completing the virtuoso tangle of its net in 1754.