Museums at Work
Museums at Work

Museums at Work

Antonio Canova in the Vatican Museums

25 October 2023 – 6 January 2024
Vatican Museums

On the occasion of the bicentenary of the death of Antonio Canova (Possagno 1757 - Venice 1822), the Vatican Museums are paying homage to the great sculptor by dedicating an original exhibition project to him, which from 25 October will engage visitors all along the museum itinerary.

The detailed and widespread exhibition, in proposing a special Canova itinerary (Octagonal Court, Chiaramonti Museum, New Wing, Pinacoteca), is also intended to recall the institutional role that the "prince of sculptors" had as Superintendent of the Artistic Patrimony of the State and Director General of the Vatican Museums, as well as the intense diplomatic activity he carried out - by appointment to Pope Pius VII - in the delicate task of recovering the artistic masterpieces requisitioned by Napoleon after the Treaty of Tolentino (1797).
However, the Canova celebrations in the Vatican – realised under the direction and curatorship of Barbara Jatta and Alessandra Rodolfo, Head of the Department of XVII-XVIII Century Art – will culminate in the presentation of the new permanent display, in the heart of the Vatican Palaces, in the refined Sala delle Dame (Hall of the Ladies), which for the first time will welcome the general public to the Museums with its precious and previously unseen nucleus of works pertaining to the great Maestro: sketches, models and plaster casts of a religious nature.

In honoring the multiple talents and the versatility of the genius of Possagno, acclaimed in life as “the new Phidias”, the exhibition would not be complete without reference to his creative process and the important novelties that he was able to bring to sculptural practice. For the entire duration of the exhibition event, Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca will evoke the Roman Studio that Canova set up and animated with his numerous collaborators, from 1783 to 1822, in the Rione Campo Marzio, between Via della Colonnette and today's Via Antonio Canova. In support of the historical reconstruction of the environment where the artist worked, a faithful architectural scale model of his atelier has been specially created with 3D prints of the statues of Perseus and the Pugilists inside. In the exhibition, the original sculptural works include the exceptional presence of the bust of Pius VII created by the Master, as well as two portrait busts by his fraternal friend and close collaborator Antonio D'Este, together with a ceramic tondo with the effigy of Canova as a symbolic tribute by contemporary artist Luigi Ontani, who for years has lived and worked in the very studio where the great neoclassical sculptor created his most famous masterpieces three centuries ago.
The entire project was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, specifically Rick and Lisa Altig of the Northwest Chapter.