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Antonio Canova (1757-1822)

Venetian Sculptor and Stonemason

 

Antonia Canova is revered for his neoclassical style and his fine attention to the human form depicted in a number of delicately featured marble statues. Antonia Canova was born in a small village in the Veneto region. His father died when he was three years old and his mother remarried, leaving him in the care of his paternal grandparents, who would support and influence his development into adult life.

Canova’s Career

Canova was born into a family of stonecutters and from a very early age, he was encouraged to draw and develop an interest in architecture and design. His paternal grandfather felt obliged to ensure that his grandson would carry on the profession of his ancestors. Canova developed an interest in sculpture very early on in his life and produced his first carvings when he was nine years old. Canova was supported throughout his career by many influential figures who would become fierce supporters of his work including financial help. Eventually he worked under the tutorage of a recognised sculptor, Giuseppe Torretto at the age of thirteen. Canova would go on to develop his artistic expertise within Venice and Rome and later to France and England. At one point, monks who admired his work offered him a workshop in an empty cell of a monastery.

Canova is recognised as one of the founders of neoclassical style, which draws upon Western classical art and culture, usually Ancient Greece or Rome. This style is more refined than the dramatic techniques of the Baroque sculpture. Canova worked hard to perfect his style to produce accurate representations in his work. He would regularly observe the mannerisms and actions of street performers and would study anatomy, a science he regarded as essential to his work. He spent most of his life perfecting his craft with much enthusiasm. He produced both life size and colossal pieces of art, which were highly celebrated for their attention to detail and definition.

Antonio Canova’s statue Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, first commissioned in 1787, exemplifies the Neoclassical obsession with love and emotion. It represents the god Cupid in the height of love and tenderness, immediately after awakening the lifeless Psyche with a kiss, a scene excerpted from Lucius Apuleius’ The Golden Ass.
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No matter how many times I see this masterpiece,I find my self in awe of its tenderness and eroticism

In May 1822 he paid a visit to Naples, to superintend the construction of wax moulds for an equestrian statue of the perjured Bourbon king Ferdinand VII. This journey materially injured his health, but he rallied again on his return to Rome. Towards the latter end of the year he paid his annual visit to the place of his birth, when he experienced a relapse. He proceeded to Venice, and expired there at the age of nearly sixty-five. His disease was one which had affected him from an early age, caused by the continual use of carving-tools, producing a depression of the ribs. The most distinguished funeral honors were paid to his remains, which were deposited in the temple at Possagno on 25 October 1822. His heart was interred in a marble pyramid he designed as a mausoleum for the painter Titian in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, now a monument to the sculptor.

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