The terracotta group shows the Good Samaritan coming to the aid of a man who had been attacked by robbers while going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, an episode recounted by Jesus in a parable in the Gospel of Saint Luke (Lk 10:25-36): "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." Displayng considerable narrative skill, the sculptor depicts the Samaritan kneeling in an act of mercy on rocky ground cradling the young man's seemingly lifeless body, a jar of ointment by his side to treat the victim's wounds. Modelled meticulously in the round with immense care and accuracy, the sculpture is an independent work rather than a preparatory bozzetto. The coeval gilding with its two different nuances of gold, more reddish in hue on the rocky ground and distinctly brighter and more yellow in the two figures, suggest that the group was designed to imitate gilt bronze.
Nunzio Morello studied under the sculptor Federico Siracusa and was much appreciated by Agostino Gallo, who commissioned him to carve an oval bas-relief in marble with a Portrait of Marchese Gioacchino Giuseppe Haus for display in the church of San Francesco di Paola in Palermo. After attending Valerio Villareale's school, Morello became a follower of Canova. Though trained in the Neoclassical style, he was not insensitive to the wind of Romanticism that was starting to blow. After carving a bust of Ferdinando II of Bourbon for the Lazzaretto in Palermo's Acquasanta district in 1834, he won two gold medals at the First Solemn Exhibition of Fine Arts in Palermo on 30 May 1838 for his Paris Seated, a marble statue erected in Palermo's Botanical Garden. On being awarded a four-year study grant by the Decurionato, he enrolled at the presitigious Accademia di San Luca in Rome from 1838 to 1842.
Returning to Palermo, he was appointed Honorary Professor of Sculpture at Palermo University in 1847 and later held the chair of Nude Studies, a post previously held by Valerio Villareale. He carved a marble half-bust of the President of the Kingdom of Sicily Roger the Seventh in 1849, and was commissioned by the Palermo Decurionato to carve a colossal marble statue of King Philip V of Spain which was placed on 31 July 1856 on a pedestal that had once hosted a statue of Philip IV.
Morello carved a large marble statue of Francesco I of Bourbon which was erected in Messina in 1860. His last work, a Female Indian Savage, was donated by his heirs to the Società Siciliana per la Storia Patria di Palermo, but it was destroyed in an air raid in 1943. The most outstanding among his numerous pupils were Benedetto Civiletti, Ettore Ximenes and Domenico Trentacoste.
Marchese Nicola Santangelo was Interior Minister in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1831 to 1847. Extremely wealthy and powerful, and with a highly developed taste for fine art, he also advised King Ferdinando II in connection with the purchase of several mastepieces that are still in public collections in Naples today. Marchese Santangelo's name is associated today mainly with two things: the family's archaeological collection, which his brother donated to the Museo Nazionale; and the Congresso Scientifico degli Italiani, which he convened in 1845. That occasion also witnessed the publication of one of the best guides to the city entitled Napoli e i luoghi cerebri delle sue vicinanze, which also mentions the Palazzo Santangelo and its collections.The building belonged in the 15th century to Diomede Carafa, Count of Maddaloni, and hosted one of the city's most celebrated works of art, a bronze horse's head revered even by Goethe and now in the Museo Archeologico.