Antonio Canova is one of the most important Italian sculptors of the 18th century and the greatest exponent of Neoclassicism.
Born in Possagno (TV) in 1757, he began working as an apprentice in Venice. A precocious talent, he set up his own workshop at the age of eighteen. At the age of twenty-two, in 1779, he moved to Rome, the capital of Italian art and culture in the 18th century, to study the works of the greats and to compare himself with the main artists of an artistic current that was gaining ground in those years.
It was during this period that he produced some of his most famous works such as 'Amore e Psiche', 'Tre Grazie', 'Maddalena Penitente', and 'Teseo sul Minotauro'. Within a few years, he became one of the leading figures in Roman art, so much so that he bought a palace in the heart of the capital, which soon became a destination for artists and prominent figures of the time.
Canova's works are distinguished by the elegance of the forms, the beauty and simplicity of his figures. The Venetian artist in fact abandoned the excessive drapery and pomp of Baroque works, stripping the human figure to restore it in all its purity in order to extract its essence in the whiteness of marble.
Antonio Canova also devoted himself to painting, an art he cultivated as a personal pleasure, avoiding making his creations public.
Napoleon, at the height of his success, asked Canova to become his official portrait painter. The Italian sculptor refused, but produced beautiful works for the sovereign and some of his family members such as the Portrait of Pauline Bonaparte inspired by Venus Victrix, that of Marie Louise in the guise of 'Concordia' or that of Napoleon Bonaparte as 'Mars the Peacemaker'.
Canova died in 1822. His body is preserved in Possagno in the Tempio Canoviano, a neoclassical church designed by Canova himself.