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Antonio Canova - Venus with the mirror
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Antonio Canova - Venus with Faun
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Antonio Canova - Venus and Adonis
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Antonio Canova - The Graces
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Antonio Canova - Self portrait
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Antonio Canova - Cupid Lubomirski
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Antonio Canova - Creugante
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Antonio Canova - Theseus winner of the Centaur
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Antonio Canova - Love and Psyche
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Antonio Canova - Theseus on the Minotaur
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Antonio Canova - Dancer with hands on hips
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Antonio Canova - Dancer with her finger to her chin
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Antonio Canova - The surprise
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Antonio Canova - The Graces and Venus dance in front of Mars
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Antonio Canova - Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as the winning Venus
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Thomas Lawrence - Portrait of Antonio Canova
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Antonio Canova - Cephalus and Procris
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Antonio Canova - Venus and Mars
Antonio Canova - Venus with the mirror
Antonio Canova - Venus with Faun
Antonio Canova - Venus and Adonis
Antonio Canova - The Graces
Antonio Canova - Self portrait
Antonio Canova - Cupid Lubomirski
Antonio Canova - Creugante
Antonio Canova - Theseus winner of the Centaur
Antonio Canova - Love and Psyche
Antonio Canova - Theseus on the Minotaur
Antonio Canova - Dancer with hands on hips
Antonio Canova - Dancer with her finger to her chin
Antonio Canova - The surprise
Antonio Canova - The Graces and Venus dance in front of Mars
Antonio Canova - Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as the winning Venus
Thomas Lawrence - Portrait of Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova - Cephalus and Procris
Antonio Canova - Venus and Mars

Other works on display

Description

The Graces are the masterpiece of the entire neoclassical movement, as well as one of the most celebrated works of Antonio Canova, mainly due to the feeling of amazement that is felt at the sight of three female figures rendered to life size and carved from a single block of marble. The group was requested by the Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, one of the main patrons of Canova. Her personal history saw her first marry Alexandre Beauharnais, but it was her second marriage to Napoleon that made her famous. In fact, he died in 1815, so it was his son Eugène who enjoyed the enchanting beauty of the work, which is now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. While Canova was still intent on the first variant, John Russel, 6th Duke of Bedford, arrived in Rome in December 1814. The plaster model impressed him so much that he commissioned a replica. Now the masterpiece has become the shared heritage of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh. The two versions differ only in the shape of the column. In the language of the nude, the one congenial and favorite to him, Canova represented these three girls, daughters of Zeus and of the goddess Oceanina Eurynome. Their names are Aglaia, embodiment of splendor, Eufrosine of joy and gladness, and Talia representing prosperity. Due to ancient iconography, the motif of the three naked and embraced female figures, often associated with Venus, was repeatedly taken up by Canova in his works. In fact, there are several drawings and tempera, a monochrome, a painting, but above all a plaster bas-relief, indicative of his interpretative thought. The innovative desire to portray the three figures differently from the previous and classic representations was becoming evident. This group translates the idea of 'grace' into sculpture, understood not so much as a category of bodily beauty, but rather as a quality of spirit and feeling. The three sisters, surrounded by a cloth, perfectly respond to the canons of ideal beauty sought by neoclassical artists. They are joined in a graceful dance or in a round dance and reach a perfect degree of balance. They resemble each other a lot both in their hairstyle and in their features and are united in a tender closed embrace, intertwined, as if they were a single entity. They also follow a pattern of intimate, loving, mutual and reserved gazes, excluding the viewer. There is a subtle play of supple and soft lines, of reciprocal gestures, slow and studied, of almost whispered words in a harmonious composition. On the left stands a stele, almost hidden by the figure on the left, on which three wreaths of flowers rest, which cleverly acts as a support base for the three subjects. We are witnessing what Quatremère de Quincy called "the visible changes of an abstract quality" through "the ingenious and new embrace of three female figures who, from whatever side they are considered, turning around, always show different, a variety of positions, forms, outlines, ideas and affects ingeniously nuanced ». This sculpture expresses the most profound meaning and essence of the thought elaborated within the neoclassical culture, representing in an exemplary way the idea of beauty dropped into a perfect and self-contained form.

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