Who is Antonio Canova?

Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor who was one of the leading advocates for the 18th and early 19th century’s neoclassic style. He is regarded as one of the most significant sculptors in all of Europe.

Early Life of Antonio Canova

Canova was born in a small village Possagno, located in Veneto, in the year 1757. His father died when Canova was only 4 years old. His mother went on to remarry a year later and gave Canova to his grandfather Pasino Canova. Pasino was a stonecutter and sculptor and introduced the young boy into the life of art. In 1768, his talent was blossoming and gave him the opportunity to become the apprentice of Giuseppe Bernardi, more commonly named Torretti. Torretti took Canova to Venice, familiarizing him with the collection in the Palazzo Farsetti. Canova set up a studio in 1775 in the heart of Venice, starting his commission works.

The Style of Antonio Canova

Canova’s work was sought after from the very beginning. His early work reflecting the Rococo style which was trending at the time. This movement illustrated illusions of motion and drama, with asymmetrical and curving forms. His figure sculptures were said to be so realistic, that many people thought they were body casts. After his first initial years working in Venice, he travelled to Rome and was introduced to the style of neoclassicism. This differed to the Rococo movement by focusing on order, heroism, and flawless human figures.

Antonio Canova’s most significant pieces

Canova had numerous sculptures that are still seen today as great masterpieces. One noteworthy piece was his ‘Cupid and Psyche’ sculpture. It depicts the Cupid, the God of love and the human Psyche embracing. It is now founded in the famous Louvre museum in Paris. His first neoclassical piece was ‘Theseus and the Minotaur,’ done in 1782. This reflected a victor’s repose after winning a battle. It became immediately popular, increasing Canova’s reputation substantially. Another exceptional piece was ‘The Three Graces,’ a neoclassical sculpture of the three daughters of Zeus. The three figures represent beauty, charm and joy. As well as sculpture, Canova dabbled in painting. He painted numerous oil portraits, including self-portraits, but these pieces were never as popular. He mainly painted for his own interest and never showed the majority of his paintings to the public.

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