Antonio Canova

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Related to Antonio Canova: Bertel Thorvaldsen, Cupid and Psyche

Canova, Antonio

(äntô`nyō känô`vä), 1757–1822, Italian sculptor. He was a leading exponent of the neoclassical school whose influence on the art of his time was enormous. Canova's monumental statues and bas-reliefs are executed with extreme grace, polish, and purity of contour. His first important commission was the monument (1782–87) to Clement XIV in the Church of the Apostles, Rome, followed by that to Clement XIII (completed 1792) in St. Peter's. He then received numerous major commissions from many countries. An admirer of Napoleon, Canova executed a bust of the emperor from life and several other portraits, including two where Napoleon is represented nude in the guise of a Roman emperor. His statue (1820) of George Washington for the statehouse at Raleigh, N.C. (destroyed), was dressed in Roman armor. Canova's memorabilia, consisting of sketches, casts, a few oil paintings, and a voluminous correspondence, are divided between the Gipsoteca in Possagno, his birthplace, and the Civic Museum in Bassano.

Canova, Antonio


Born Nov. 1, 1757, in Possagno, Veneto region; died Oct. 13, 1822, in Venice. Italian neoclassical sculptor.

Canova studied in Venice (1768–74) under the sculptor Toretti. He worked primarily in Venice and Rome. His early works followed the traditions of baroque art, but he subsequently embarked on formal imitation of classical sculpture.

His effective tombs (of Clement XIII, 1792, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome), statues of mythological heroes (Cupid and Psyche, 1793 version, Louvre, Paris; 1800 version, Hermitage, Leningrad), and idealized portraits (Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix, 1805–07, Borghese Gallery, Rome) combine serene composition, clarity, and elegant proportions with cold abstract images, features of saccharine sentimentality and salon pretti-ness, and the lifeless smoothness of polished marble. Canova’s work served as a model for 19th-century European academic sculpture.


Kosareva, N. K. Kanova i ego proizvedeniia v Ermitazhe, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1963.
Coletti, L., ed. Mostra Canoviana (Catalog). Treviso, 1957.
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And although the name Antonio Canova hardly raises the same red flag of controversy, the sculptor's shadow looms even larger over Koons's recent works--both as a superficial referent and a strategic model, for the plaster casts that make up "Gazing Ball" and the statues within the palimpsests of the Gagosian paintings immediately conjure Neoclassicism: Think Canova's highly dramatic, alabaster figures in the round, such as his Apollo Crowning Himself, 1781.
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The cultural historian Anne Higonnet suggests that the first purpose-built shrine in this vein was the Gipsoteca dedicated to Antonio Canova at Possagno, his birthplace (Fig.