Antonio Canova


In the history of art, the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova has a very important place for his virtuous production in marble and for being considered by many specialists as the best neoclassical sculptor in all of Europe.


Personal information

  • When was he born:  11/01/1757
  • When he died:  10/13/1822
  • Nationality:  Italian

Who was Antonio Canova?

Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor and painter of the neoclassical style born in Possagno, Italy, on November 1, 1757. He was considered the best European sculptor and his works have influenced other sculptors. He was director of the San Lucas Academy in Rome and inspector of Antiquities and Fine Arts of the Papal States. He received several awards for his works and was awarded the title of Marquis of Ischia. His works, inspired by ancient Greece , touch on different themes such as: heroes, characters from Greek mythology and funeral monuments. Among his many well-known sculptures we can mention  “The Three Graces” , “Orpheus and Eurydice” , “Venus Victrix” and“Psyche revived by the kiss of love . ” He died in Venice on October 13, 1822. In his hometown, Possagno, the Canovano Museum of Possagno was created where you can see many of the works and information about the life of this artist.


Many of his works decorate well-known museums around the world and are studied by young people and adults in books and art courses. Among his best known works are : “The Three Graces” , ” Venus Victrix” and “Psyche reanimated by the kiss of love”.


Biography of Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova was born in Possagno, Italy in 1757 . The son of a humble family, he had to perform other trades before undertaking his artistic studies. In 1768, he moved to Venice where he began to be known as a sculptor and achieved the prestige that he developed throughout his life.

His first sculptures made in Venice show a baroque style . This is the case of the works “Orpheus and Eurydice” and “Daedalus and Icarus” .

In 1781, Canova established himself in Rome as an artist recognized for his sculptures inspired by classical antiquity and for being influenced by the theoretical principles of Winckelman, Milizia and other authors of the neoclassical movement.

Canova was forged through the daily practice of drawing and the perfection of her nudes with perfect polishes that embody the aesthetic beauty of her depicted characters.

Thanks to his fame as a neoclassical artist, Antonio Canova commissioned important figures of his time such as Napoleon and Catherine the Great of Russia .

Among the best known works for these characters is the portrait of Napoleon’s sister, Paulina Borghese and “The Three Graces” . In addition, the artist makes a sculpture titled Victorious Venus in which Paulina is the one representing the Goddess of fertility. He also made the sculpture of Napoleon Naked.

Antonio Canova is also known for sculpting monumental tombs for Popes Clement XIII and Clement XIV . His fame as an artist opened many doors for him and made him an influential man who had the support of the papacy and who was charged with the task of recovering the works of art plundered by Napoleon.

Antonio Canova died in Venice on October 13, 1822.

Characteristics of Antonio Canova’s work

In the works of Antonio Canova the following characteristics stand out:

  • His artistic style is neoclassical and romantic .
  • His specialty is sculpture and painting.Works by Antonio Canova
  • Its theme is focused on female sculptures, heroes, characters from Greek mythology and funeral monuments.
  • It has a refined treatment of marble.
  • His works are inspired by ancient models, having as a tradition to portray mortals in the figures of divinities.
  • He works with life-size proportions in many of his works.
  • Polifocality. His works must be observed from various angles to appreciate all its forms.
  • His pieces are loaded with subtlety, delicacy, sensuality and eroticism.

Works by Antonio Canova

Among the most representative works of Antonio Canova the following can be mentioned:

  • Theseus and the Minotaur , 1781-1783.
  • Tomb of Clement XIV, 1783-1787.
  • Eros and Psyche, 1787-1793.
  • Venus and Adonis, 1789-1794.
  • Tomb of Archduchess Maria Cristina of Habsburg, 1798-1815.
  • Astragalus players, around 1800.
  • Perseus with the Head of Medusa, 1800-1801.
  • Paulina Bonaparte as Victorious Venus, 1804-1808.
  • Italic Venus, 1804-1812.
  • Theseus in fight with a centaur, 1804-1819.
  • Dancer, 1812.
  • The Three Graces, 1815-1817.

Victorious venus

One of the most outstanding works of Antonio Canova is the Victorious Venus which is represented by Paulina Bonaparte. This marble work was produced between 1804 and 1808.

Paulina Bonnaparte appears lying on a bed in Roman style embodying the image of the mythological goddess. Canova highlights the satin turgor of marble, feminine sensuality and takes up the theme of the Venetian sleeping Venuses .

Napoleon as peacemaker Mars

This sculpture made by Antonia Canova between 1803 and 1806 portrays the Emperor Napoleon as the victorious god Mars . This work made of marble presents the great naked general wearing a military cape resting on his left shoulder. In his left hand he holds a spear and in his right he takes a golden globe dominated by a winged Victoria.

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