Go-ahead for Canova Monument
It is a sunny December morning in Calcutta and I am about to enter St Paul’s Anglican cathedral, a fine early Victorian Gothic building with a west window by Edward Burne Jones and an impressive colony of sparrows living in the rafters of its nave. An email suddenly flashes up on my phone, a message from the Venice In Peril office in far-off Putney, announcing that an anonymous donor has sent us a cheque for a sum which requires several readings in order to establish the precise number of noughts on the end. Light of heart, I mount the steps muttering the opening line of an old hymn, “ God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform” and, once inside, send fervent thanks in the general direction of the sparrows.
This astonishingly generous donation now enables us to give the go-ahead at last to the Soprintendenza delle Belle Arti, Venice’s art and architecture conservation authority, so that its marvellous team of experts can begin work on restoring the monument to the sculptor Antonio Canova in the basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It is nearly five years since we adopted this project, one of the grandest and most ambitious we have yet undertaken, and it has inevitably assumed pride of place among our plans and calculations for the immediate future. Now and then we have experienced our “Can we afford it or are we mad ?” moments, but the gifts to Venice In Peril, large or small, have continued to arrive and we have been heartened, particularly during the past year, by an increasing surge of goodwill towards us among lovers of Venice and all things Venetian, both in Britain and abroad.
The latest donation, given under conditions of scrupulous anonymity, is an outstanding example of this humane and liberal appreciation, ensuring that Venice In Peril sustains its important work on the city’s behalf. It does not, however, quite take us to our original fundraising target for Canova. A small amount - around £50,000 - is still needed and this can be achieved through individual contributions while work on the restoration’s earliest phase progresses. You can choose, if you like, to adopt one of this unique monument’s individual components - an allegorical statue (the Sleeping Genius, for instance, needs a spot of loving care) the brass lettering which forms the inscription or the railing around the base of the ensemble. Whatever you offer will be hugely valued by us, by admirers of Canova, by art-lovers throughout the world and, most significant of all, by the Venice you have helped to keep in being. We warmly thank everyone who has given to the project so far.