Canova | Thorvaldsen. The birth of modern sculpture

Gallerie d’Italia - Piazza Scala, the Intesa Sanpaolo museum complex, houses the “Canova–Thorvaldsen. The birth of modern sculpture" exhibition, curated by Stefano Grandesso e Fernando Mazzocca, until 15 March 2020. The exhibition (160 works divided into 17 sections) is an exceptional opportunity to discover eighteenth and nineteenth-century sculpture, given the importance and the beauty of the exhibited works, as well as its remarkable academic value.

"A new prestigious artistic initiative of international standing promoted by Intesa Sanpaolo"

Set up in collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, this exhibition was made possible thanks to the contribution of major works loaned from museums and private collections in Italy and abroad. A few of these include: the Vatican Library, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery and Pinacoteca gallery of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome and the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice. A considerable number of the works also come from the Museo Antonio Canova museum and gypsotheca in Possagno, that has promoted the commemorations for Canova, which began in July 2019 - 200 years after the laying of the first stone of the Temple of Canova - and will draw to a close on 13 October 2022, the date marking two centuries since the artist's death.
This international project made it possible to compare the two artists for the first time in an exhibition, following them in their fascinating biographical and creative journey. The comparison had originally taken place in Rome, where they spent most of their lives and achieved fame thanks to an extraordinary career. Canova moved there in 1781 from Venice, while the younger Thorvaldsen joined him in 1797 from Copenhagen. In the following two decades and beyond, when their presence made Rome the capital of modern sculpture, they were rivals and challenged each other with the same motifs and subjects, each giving his own original take. These were the figures from ancient mythology who, including the Graces, Cupid and Psyche, Venus, Hebe, were the embodiment of the great universal themes of life and death in the Western collective imagination, such as the short journey of youth, the charm of beauty, flattery and the woes of love.
The opportunity to bring their most beautiful statues together under one roof allows for a genuine Olympus in marble form, an emblem of a civilisation that looked to antiquity, but at the same time aspired to modernity. Canova was the revolutionary artist, capable of elevating sculpture above the other arts, through the interplay with and outclassing of antiquity. Thorvaldsen, studying the work and techniques of his rival, was inspired by a more austere and nostalgic idea of classicism, heralding a new era of Nordic art dominated by a timeless fascination with the Mediterranean world.
With the opening of the Canova-Thorvaldsen exhibition, Intesa Sanpaolo's Progetto Cultura project launches its own line of publications on this subject, in collaboration with Skira, a publishing project with a specific design and graphic approach. The great Canova-Thorvaldsen volume, much more than a simple exhibition catalogue, is the first product of this publishing project that aims to document the main initiatives of Gallerie d'Italia in Italian and English at the highest level. The Gallerie d'Italia/Skira Editions will be distributed by the Skira distribution network in Italy and abroad.

October 2019