Antonio Canova

December 2, 2009 / Art & Archaeology
Possagno, Veneto
canova1Possagno, a small town (p. 2000) in the foothills of the alps near Venice is the birthplace of a sculptor who, in his day, was legendary. Antonio Canova was considered the most talented sculptor in Europe and his house there has been transformed into a museum, or rather a shrine. Lovingly preserved are his sketches, models in clay and countless full size plaster casts from which his marble figures were sculpted. Numerous artists of his day painted his portrait (and the museum contains over 300 of these). And if that were not enough, one can see his right hand, preserved in formaldehyde, in a glass reliquary!

Canova (1757-1822) was a leading exponent of the graceful neoclassical style. He was inspired by the purity of Greek and Roman art, which he studied in Pompeii and Rome. He was already acclaimed as a young artist, and was sought after by popes and royalty. His renowned portrait of Napoleon’s sister, Paolina can be seen in the Borghese gallery in Rome where it has a room all to itself. canova5His statue of George Washington, “modestly” dressed as a Roman emperor and commissioned for the statehouse at Raleigh, N.C., was destroyed, but the plaster cast can be found in the museum.

An incredibly prolific artist all his life, in his last years he designed a temple for Possagno, meant to be the parish church. It stands today as a neoclassical monument to this remarkable artist.



Patricia Glee Smith

by Patricia Glee Smith

Accomplished artist and very involved archaeology aficionado based in Otricoli, Umbria. Click here to view her artwork.

5 Responses to “Antonio Canova”

  1. Dear Patricia- Well done! Are you having a show any time soon? I remember with great pleasure visiting your home in Otricoli and seeing your beautiful paintings! Merry Christmas! Katherine (Sue)

  2. Ulrika Simoneau

    Dear Patricia,

    Thank you for the beautiful note, always inspiring
    when you post something. Here in Montreal we have
    beautiful, foggy and not so cold, no-snow, November weather
    (unusual) – all the greys, beiges and browns blending together
    make my water front walk in the dusk look like a wonderful mystery,
    feels like in your part of the world at this time of the year…
    I’m preparing to start my Blog soon and if I can make it
    to Italy this year, I will send you a mail and maybe I could drop by and write about you and your part of the world.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Seasons,
    Ulrika Simoneau, interior designer, Montreal, Canada

  3. Thank you so much for the note about Canova; he was such a gifted man. I arrive in Venice on March 4, have the train/bus schedule ready to go and worship in Possagna!

  4. Gian Banchero

    I love all forms and schools of modern art starting at the end of the 19th century up to the present, there are many pieces of modern art I can stare at for minutes and minutes (I’m a graduate of two California art schools– abstract expressionism is my forte, I think I know what to look for in art), BUT when it comes to GOOD classical art as presented I can spend hours looking at a piece. Interestingly the ancient Greeks felt a statue of a human wasn’t s success until pressure was put upon the torso, if the “skin” felt soft and seemed to give in a little the piece was deemed a triumph, of course this was all part of the illusion and imagination plus testement to the genious of the artist, I think I see this same attribute in Canova’s work. When in Italy next I must see his work. Thank you very much for bringing Canova to our attention!


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