Brera|z - Canova and Thorvaldsen. The reasons for a success
This extraordinary exhibition that ended on 28 June made it possible, for the first time, to compare the two artists and follow their fascinating personal and creative development. It was made possible by a prestigious collaboration with the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, with loans from important public galleries in Italy and abroad as well as exclusive private collections.
Comparisons between the two were originally made in Rome, where they both spent most of their artistic lives. Canova, born at Possagno in 1753, moved there in 1781, after his Venetian production, while Thorvaldsen joined him in 1797 from his native Copenhagen. The presence of the two artists in Rome transformed the vision of the city. Seen as the capital of the art of the Roman emperors, the cradle of the artistic Middle Ages and the welcoming home of the Baroque, it now became the principal, vital centre of modern sculpture.
The pair were colleagues and rivals, competing for the palm of the greatest artist of the age, working on the same motifs and subjects, with each providing his own original interpretation of them. They debated and portrayed figures from ancient mythology who, like the Graces, Cupid and Psyche, Venus and many others, embodied the great universal themes in the collective Western imagination. Life, death, youth, the extraordinary enchantment of beauty, which in the theoretical understanding of artistic practice was structured by the final and fundamental quality of their work: the Beautiful.
The competition continued in the exhibition rooms of the Gallerie d'Italia, amid the pure and glowing whiteness of absolutely remarkable sculptures.
The rhythms of the layout were cadenced by absolute wonder, with unique and unrepeatable critical comparisons. Visitors had the opportunity to be art critics for a day, not just viewers of art but participants, ready at the end to exercise their personal judgment and decide which was the winner.
Opening image: Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, The Three Graces, Gallerie d'Italia, Milan