DALLA BELLEZZA CLASSICA
AL TEOREMA PERFETTO

Formatore dell’ambito di Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757 – Venezia, 1822), Gladiatore Borghese 1806, gesso, 157 x 132 x 66 cm Padova, palazzo Papafava, collezione privata (fotografia di Fabio Zonta)

Formator of the circle of Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757 – Venice, 1822), Borghese Gladiator 1806, plaster, 157 x 132 x 66 cm Padua, Papafava palace, private collection (photograph by Fabio Zonta)

Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757 – Venezia, 1822), Creugante 1806, gesso, 218 x 125 x 66 cm Padova, palazzo Papafava, collezione privata (fotografia di Fabio Zonta)

Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757 – Venice, 1822), Creugante 1806, plaster, 218 x 125 x 66 cm Padua, Papafava palace, private collection (photograph by Fabio Zonta)

The four plaster-casts seen in these rooms recreate the look that Canova had envisioned for the main reception room in the Palazzo Papafava in Padua: the classic Belvedere Apollo alongside his Perseus triumphant, while the Borghese Gladiator, another much celebrated piece, is juxtaposed to his Creugante.

For the first time ever, these pieces are being exhibited on their original pedestals, newly restored for the occasion.

The person responsible for these pairings was count Alessandro Papafava (1784-1861) – we see his portrait, with his brother, Francesco, as depicted by Angelica Kauffmann – who had spent considerable time in Rome with Canova and who — in 1806 — commissioned these four casts. Created under the watchful eye of the perfectionist sculptor, the four casts, two classical works and two pieces by Canova, were to be located here permanently, the Ancient and Modern in harmony, relating to each other, yet in constant contrast.

The idea of this contrast reminds us of a topic dear to Luigi Coletti (1886–1961), the art historian and conservator of the Treviso City museums and art gallery, who wrote that Canova’s ability to think originally, matched with his independent streak, enabled him to transcend the most rigorous elements of Neo-classsicism.

In Canova’s sculptures, we see the ideal beauty of the Ancients — beloved yet eschewing adulation — meeting the modern world, with just a hint of soon-to-be Romantic sensibility.For, Perseus expresses elegance more than strength, a forerunner of the Romantic sensibility.

Indeed, in Promenades dans Rome (1827), Stendhal, expressed the view that the Perseus was quite pleasing, and that women liked it much better than the Apollo.