Four sculpture models by Antonio Canova, Accademia Galleries

About the project

1 – Wrestlers, 1775 (Painted terracotta, 39.5 x 34 x 20cm) This was Canova’s entry in an Accademia competition for a copy from antique statuary.  His model was a cast in the collection of Filippo Farsetti, taken from the Roman copy of a Hellenistic original in the Uffizi. Wrestling subjects were often used as teaching subjects in the 18th and 19th centuries because of the complex poses they presented.Old repairs, chips and dirt were treated.

2 – Apollo, 1775-1776 (Wax and painted terracotta, 60 x 24 x 20cm). Canova gave this model to the Academy in 1776 when he became an Academician.  The sculptor may have used it to present his concept for an Apollo and Daphne group to his patron the Procuratore Ludovico Rezzonico.After modelling, the clay would have been cut and fired in sections with boxwood dowels used to reassemble it.  Conservation treatment included remounting the sections and cleaning away the layers of wax applied over the years.

3 – Model for a Monument to Titian, 1792 (Painted wood and wax, 114 x 86 x 28cm) Canova and assistants. Proposed by one of Canova’s main patrons Gerolamo Zulian for the Basilica of the Frari, the monument was to have been financed by ‘lovers of fine arts’, but costs and the death of Zulian halted the project.  During conservation treatment the original points of contact between the two wax figures, showing the spirit and the lion, were identified, confirming that their positions were exactly the same as the figures on the Monument to Canova now in the Basilica dei Frari.

4 – Pietà, 1817-21 (Terracotta, 22 x 34 x 19cm on a wood and gilt brass base). This is a preparatory model for a large sculpture of the Pietà proposed for the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Marble and bronze versions of the Pietà were only made after Canova’s death.The pinkish clay is extremely fragile and conservation treatment included remedying inaccurate earlier repairs and cleaning.


Project location

In brief

  • Four models (known as bozzetti) by Antonio Canova, 1757-1822, underwent conservation in 2011 and are now part of the permanent Canova display in the Accademia Galleries. They illustrate the ideas and method of the great sculptor and his role in the refounding of the Accademia after the fall of the Republic. 
  • Canova was celebrated across Europe as a sculptor, cultural diplomat and conservationist and had many patrons in Britain.
  • One of the models treated as part of this project is a design for a Monument to Titian, proposed for the Church of the Frari.  The project was never realised but after Canova’s death the design was adapted for a monument to him. The monument itself is now undergoing conservation treatment funded by Venice in Peril.  
  • In 2016, Venice in Peril contributed to the opening up of the new rooms in the Palladio wing, which had housed the Accademia schools and now presents the galleries’ Canova holdings.
  • See also the Cattedra Cicognara project of 2015
  • For more on Room 10 of the Accademia Galleries

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