Hebe, symbol of eternal youth, cup-holder of the Gods, has risen from the ashes. Or more correctly, from the fragments that, in the aftermath of the Allied bombing of Bassano on April 24, 1945, were collected as relics. Relics of a plaster among the most beautiful and fascinating among those made by the famous sculptor of Possagno.
These fragments have remained in the deposits of the Civic Museums for more than 70 years, abandoned to oblivion because their recomposition has long been considered impossible. Then, the development of new technologies applied to the restoration allowed the legendary Ebe of Bassano del Grappa to find her shape and her grace again. An innovative conservation intervention, entirely funded by the Rotary Bassano and the Rotary Asolo Pedemontana del Grappa, gave it back to life. The Municipality of Forlì, owner of the marble version of Hebe to which the Bassano gypsum is connected, also collaborated with the company.
To celebrate the event, the City of Bassano del Grappa, through the Civic Museums directed by Barbara Guidi, has decided to propose the rediscovered masterpiece as the protagonist of a very specific exhibition on Canova's reinterpretation of the mythological figure of Hebe to whom the sculptor of Possagno has been able to give such perfect features as to remain indelibly imprinted in the collective imagination.
Elusive but at the same time intriguing, the myth of Hebe has known, over the centuries, an alternating fortune in Western culture. Mentioned by Homer and Hesiod, Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera, had the role of oenophor, the handmaid of the gods. The mysterious nectar she poured gave immortality and eternal youth. After her marriage to Heracles, her role as cup holder of the gods was assigned to Ganymede. A profound connoisseur of the classic, nourished by the antiquarian culture that in the eighteenth century discovered and classified the precious ancient finds with dedication, Canova was able to condense the myth of this adolescent divinity into an emblematic image, that of youth caught at the apex of its flourishing beauty, in that fleeting moment of perfection that anticipates adulthood. She made two different versions of it. The first, in which the young goddess, who is preparing to mix ambrosia, lands on a frothy cloud; the other, she caught her while she gracefully rests her feet at the base of a tree trunk. Both versions, transposed in marble, are the pride of four important public and private collections in Europe: from the Staatlichen Museen in Berlin to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, from the Devonshire Collection in Chatsworth to the Museums of San Domenico in Forlì.