Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) is one of the most important Italian sculptors of all time. His masterpiece, this Perseus, (finished in 1801) is characterized by classical beauty and a return to renaissance line and posing. The demi-god hero is seen here brandishing the severed head of Medusa, while wearing the helmet of Pluto (which had the power of invisibility), the winged sandals of Mercury, and the diamond sword given to him by Vulcan.
Pope Pius VII not only purchased the glorious statue, but later gave Canova the coveted title of Inspector General of Fine Arts securing his immortality. His Perseus was even displayed on the pedestal of the great “Apollo of the Belvedere” which had been taken to France following the Treaty of Tolentino. It had been the weight, proportions and expressive character of the Belvedere Apollo which had inspired Canova to create Perseus in the first place – so this was a fitting tribute to a great work of art.
While restorations on the statue are complete – It is, however, this pedestal which requires the most attention and has slowed the process of getting him back to display. Because of the dynamic rotation and angle of the sculpture’s weight, lead restorer Andrea Felice had to reconstruct the base. This newly designed pedestal enables our hero to remain stating even in the face of vibrations from possible earthquakes.
Look out for more information on Perseus and when he will be back on full display in the Museums. For now, you have to be a patron to see him!
For more on becoming a patron email your local chapter leader.