Venus Rising


exhibition Details

Venus rising celebrates the return of Antonio Canova's Venus to the Gallery, after its recent magnificent restoration, sponsored and carried out by Trethewey Granite and Marble Ltd. The company has ascertained that it is made of the same high quality Carrara marble as Michelangelo's Pietà in St Peters, Rome. The carving is so fine in parts that light passes through the folds on Venus's drapery, an aspect of modelling of which Canova was considered a virtuoso.

Canova moved permanently to Rome from his native Venice in 1780. He had trained as a stonemason, but once in Rome his neo-classical commissions were so numerous that he employed a large studio of assistants. He would form the clay model from which a plaster cast was made, which Canova considered to be the original work of art. His assistants then copied the form accurately in marble with the aid of a pointing compass. He then did the finishing, followed by a 'polisher' who gave the marble a 'diaphanous luminosity'.

Canova's Italian Venus (Venus italica), the model for Auckland's figure, was carved as a replacement for the Medici Venus, which had been taken by Napoleon for the Louvre. Writers have described the figure as the artist's most subtle and complex creation. How many marble replicas were made is unknown, nor is their place of creation clear. Certainly copies of Canova's idealised portrait sculpture of Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte  were carved directly at Carrara, where the marble industry was being revived by Napoleon's sister, Elisa. These were then shipped throughout Europe. However, only if Canova himself had been involved in the final polishing was the replica considered authentic.

Restored to her former beauty, Venus will eventually be displayed on a new plinth cut from rosso levanto marble. She is accompanied by a number of classical prints and sculptures from the Gallery's collections.

Curated by
Mary Kisler
Main Gallery
Free entry

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