Antonio Canova

Dates1757 - 1822
BornPossagno, Italy
DiedVenice, Italy

Called "the supreme minister of beauty" and "a unique and truly divine man" by contemporaries, Antonio Canova was considered the greatest sculptor of his time. Despite his lasting reputation as a champion of Neoclassicism, Canova's earliest works displayed a late Baroque or Rococo sensibility that was appealing to his first patrons, nobility from his native Venice. During his first and second visits to Rome in 1779 and 1781, Canova reached a turning point. He studied antiquities, visited the grand studios of the Roman restorers Bartolomeo Cavaceppi and Francesco Antonio Franzoni, and came under the influence of the English Neoclassicist Gavin Hamilton. In a competition organized by the Venetian aristocrat Don Abbondio Rezzonico, Canova produced his statuette of Apollo Crowning Himself, a work inspired by ancient art of a physically idealized and emotionally detached figure. This work came to define the Neoclassical style. The success of the Apollo enabled the young sculptor to obtain a block of marble for his next work on a large scale, Theseus and the Minotaur, which established his reputation. From the moment of its completion, it was the talk of Rome. From then until his death, Canova's renown grew throughout Europe.

Related Works