Cappella Sansevero (also known as the Capella Sansevero de' Sangri or Pietatella) is a chapel located on Via Francesco de Sanctis 19, just northwest of the church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the historic center of Naples, Italy. The chapel is more properly named the Chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà, or the Pietatella. It contains works of art by some of the leading Italian artists of the 18th century.
Its origin dates to 1590 when John Francesco di Sangro, Duke of Torremaggiore, after recovering from a serious illness, had a private chapel built in what were then the gardens of the nearby Sansevero family residence, the Palazzo Sansevero.
The building was converted into a family burial chapel by Alessandro di Sangro in 1613 (as inscribed on the marble plinth over the entrance to the chapel). Definitive form was given to the chapel by Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, who also included Masonic symbols in its reconstruction.Until 1888 a passageway connected the Sansevero palace with the chapel.
The chapel received its alternative name of Pietatella from a painting of the Virgin Mary (La Pietà), spotted there by an unjustly arrested prisoner, as reported in the book "Napoli Sacra" by Cesare d'Engenio Caracciolo in 1623. When the chapel was constructed it was originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà, after the painting.
The following is a list of the works of art in the chapel, numbered in the accompanying diagram, along with the artist:
Monument to Cecco de' Sangro, Francesco Celebrano;
Monument to Giovan Francesco Paolo de' Sangro, Antonio Corradini;
Il decoro, Antonio Corradini;
Monument to Paolo de' Sangro, Bernardino Landini - Giulio Mencaglia;
La liberalità, Francesco Queirolo;
Monument to Duke Giovan Francesco Paolo de' Sangro, Giacomo Lazzari;
Lo zelo della religione, Fortunato Onelli;
Painting of Raimondo de' Sangro, Carlo Amalfi;
La soavità del giogo maritale, Paolo Persico;
Altar to St. Rosalia, Francesco Queirolo;
Veiled Truth (Pudicizia), Antonio Corradini;
Monument to Alessandro de' Sangro, Unknown artist, 18th century;
Angel, Paolo Persico;
Altar (La Deposizione), Francesco Celebrano and La Pietà (painting by unknown artist, 17th century);
Angel, Paolo Persico;
Release from Deception (Il Disinganno), Francesco Queirolo;
Altar to St. Odorisio, Francesco Queirolo;
La Sincerità, Francesco Queirolo;
Monument to Raimondo de' Sangro, Francesco Maria Russo;
Basement with anatomical models and painting by Giuseppe Pesce;
Il Dominio di sé stessi, Francesco Celebrano;
Monument to Paolo de' Sangro, Antonio Corradini;
L'Educazione, Francesco Queirolo;
Monument to Paolo de' Sangro, Giorgio Marmorano - Giacomo Lazzari;
Divine Love, unknown artist of the 19th century;
Monument to Giovan Francesco de' Sangro, Francesco Celebrano;
Veiled Christ, Giuseppe Sanmartino.
The chapel also displays two early examples of what was long thought to be a form of plastination in its basement. These "anatomical models" (macchine anatomiche) were thought to be examples of the process of "human metallization" (metallizzazione umana) as implemented by anatomist Giuseppe Salerno ca. 1760 from a commission by Raimondo di Sangro. The exhibit consists of a mature male and a pregnant woman. Their skeletons are encased in the hardened arteries and veins which are colored red and blue respectively. Previously, historians have surmised that the corpses could have been created by injecting the hardening substances directly into the veins of living subjects. However, recent analysis shows no evidence of techniques involving injection. Analysis of the "blood vessels" indicate they are constructed of beeswax, iron wire, and silk.