Canova, eternal beauty

On 31 January 2020, by Zaha Redman

The approach chosen by "Canova: eternal beauty" at the Museo di Roma focuses more on the relationship between the sculptor and his adopted city, Rome.

Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Creugante, marble, 225 x 120 x 62 cm. Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani.
© Mimmo Jodice

Was Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) the heir to Praxiteles and Lysippus, and the equal of Michelangelo? It's not a question explored by this exhibition, but certainly doesn't seem an odd one, given the beauty of the works it features. The approach chosen by "Canova: eternal beauty" focuses more on the relationship between the sculptor and his adopted city, Rome. Born in Veneto, he studied in Venice and moved to the Eternal City when he was 23, remaining there and rapidly earning a dazzling reputation. He studied the classics and Michelangelo closely, but the almost abstract simplification he imposed on his figures and monuments made a striking impression, and he was seen as the great protagonist of Neoclassicism, the international movement then sweeping across Europe. He had both a deep nostalgia for the past and a keen desire to move beyond it through a modernistic rationality. This tension produced a singular melancholy, often imitated but never equalled. In 1802, Canova became Inspector General of Fine Arts, and used his position and name to repatriate many of the works plundered by Napoleon to Italy. Much in favour with the Emperor, he produced several imperial portraits, some of which are exhibited here. Crowds are flocking to this historical and thematic exhibition with its fluid circuit and sober, highly effective staging – with good reason.

"Canova, Eterna Bellezza",
Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi, Rome.
Until 15 March 2020.
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