Two works from the Workshop of Canova

The New England Chapter

Head of San Giovannino

 Artist: Workshop of Canova
Date: Late XVIII – early XIX century
Dimensions: 15cm x 12.5 cm x 17 cm
Materials: Plaster
Inventory Number: 44545

The fortune enjoyed by Antonio Canova, renowned sculptor of the eighteenth century, is confirmed by the high number of casts and plaster copies of his works preserved throughout Europe. In the 1700s, casts
played a significant role in the theoretical and practical development of the visual arts, achieving a high level of fabrication and a refinement of detail that is often considered equal
to the original work. Many casts were exhibited in the residences of art patrons, and reflect the refined tastes
of the owner.

This small plaster head was found by Antonio D’Este (sculptor and director of the Vatican Museums) in the atelier of Antonio Canova near Piazza di Spagna in Rome. When D’Este died, the work was donated to Cardinal Placido Zurla, who in turn willed it to Gregory XVI. The sculpture was then placed in the Seminario Maggiore in the Lateran. The work could be a cast of the young San Giovannino, as seen in the full volume of the chubby cheeks, the intense naturalness of the expression, the lively and mobile gaze, the delicate features and defining softness of the hair. The antique model of the Amorino theme is reworked here with extreme immediacy, and fully captures its child-like innocence.

Bozzetto of the Pietà

Artist: Workshop of Canova
Date: Late XVIII – early XIX century
Dimensions: 40 x 25 x 15 cm
Materials: plaster
Inventory Number: 44559

At the end of the eighteenth century, Canova was among the most appreciated and sought-after sculptors by European royalty, his talent pursued by Queen Catherine II of Russia, Franz II of Habsburg-Lorraine in Austria, and Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris, where the artist also stayed from 1801 to 1802 as the sculptor of the Napoleonic family. 

This is a plaster copy of the Pietà, the celebrated sculpture created by Michelangelo Buonarroti between 1497 and 1499 for the Basilica of St. Peter. The cast was made by Antonio D’Este, a pupil of Antonio Canova and director of the Vatican Museums, in the study of his late master. After the death of D’Este in 1837, the plaster was donated to Cardinal Placido Zurla, who willed it to Gregory XVI, who in turn left it to the Seminario Maggiore in the Lateran. 

The study, carried out by an unidentified artist, testifies to the timeless success of the original work. It was logical to find it in the atelier of Antonio Canova, who had been so influenced by the sculptures of Michelangelo in the Vatican. 

The model faithfully reproduces the tormented play of the drapery of the Madonna under the weight of the body of Christ lying unconscious across her knees.