Basilio Lasinio (Treviso, 1766 – 1839), Battle of the Mincio on 25 and 26 December 1801 1801, tempera on canvas paper, 56.6 x 87.2 cm Treviso, Civic Museum, INV. P 362

Giambattista Canal (Venezia, 1745 – 1825), Apollo e Dafne 1800 ca., affresco riportato su tela, 96 x 72 cm Treviso, Museo Civico, INV. P 372

Giambattista Canal (Venice, 1745 – 1825), Apollo and Daphne c. 1800, fresco on canvas, 96 x 72 cm Treviso, Civic Museum, INV. P 372

Francesco Righetti (Roma, 1749 – 1819) Luigi Righetti (Roma, 1780 – 1852), Napoleone Bonaparte come Marte pacificatore 1810 ca., bronzo, 68,5 x 20 x 35 cm Venezia, Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro

Francesco Righetti (Rome, 1749 – 1819) Luigi Righetti (Rome, 1780 – 1852), Napoleon Bonaparte as peacemaker Mars 1810, bronze, 68.5 x 20 x 35 cm Venice, Galleria Giorgio Franchetti at the Ca ‘d’Oro

Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was the last great artist of the sovereign Venetian republic, known as the Serenissima, as well as being the first of the modern era.

Antonio Canova is an artist whose work spanned two centuries — the second part of the eighteenth and the first two decades of the nineteenth — as well as two civilizations, this period being marked by dramatic events that changed both the geography and the history of Italy.

Among them, the invasion of much of the Italian peninsula by the French revolutionary forces under Napoleon, which led to the fall of the centuries-old Republic of Venice, and the exile of pope Pius VI, not to mention the wholesale appropriation of artistic masterworks, including those specified as a consequence of the peace Treaty of Tolentino of February 1797.

For the Veneto region, and for Treviso specifically, there was the humiliation of a loss of sovereignty and of French government giving way to Austrian rule consequent to the international treaties ending the French invasion.

This was “a time of folly” (“il tempo della pazzia”) wrote Canova himself in May of 1798, as he prepared to leave Rome, which was a that time governed by a Jacobin republic upheld by French occupationary forces, and return to his home-town of Possagno, 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Treviso.

This first section of the exhibition documents this period using artefacts, many of them never previously exhibited, from the collections of the Treviso City Museums.

Here we can see hints of the artistic innovations and social contexts of the new century. Examples include Giuseppe Bernardino Bison’s cycle of tempera-work, as well as the canvases by Giambattista Canal who, along with Giuseppe Borsato was responsible for many examples of the decorative arts in churches and stately homes, as well as in townhouses in and around Treviso.

Basilio Lasinio’s landscapes, featuring Napoleon’s Italian campaign, are not only masterworks of rare excellence, but also unique documents of a major historical period.

Andrea Bon’s drawings of the Arch of Triumph erected in Treviso for the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s’ arrival in the city on 7 December, 1807 have never been exhibited before.

In the centre of the space, we see a bronze featuring Napoleon as Mars the Peacekeeper (Bonaparte come Marte pacificatore). This is a smaller version of Antonio Canova’s 1806 marble statue of the emperor that is held at Apsley House in London.

In 1808, the Righetti family was commissioned by Canova to create a bronze of this sculpture, which was to be installed in Milan, at the request of the viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais.

The task was completed the very next year, but the statue was not installed in the courtyard of Palazzo Brera until 1859.

A number of smaller bronze versions of the statue were created in 1810: the one we see is, along with another that is currently in the Louvre in Paris, the only one that is signed and dated. On the back of the pedestal, we find the words: