Antonio Canova and the politics of patronage in by Christopher M. S. Johns

By Christopher M. S. Johns

The Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) used to be Europe's such a lot celebrated artist from the tip of the ancien r?gime to the early years of the recovery, an period while the normal dating among consumers and artists replaced significantly. Christopher M. S. Johns's refreshingly unique research explores a overlooked part of Canova's occupation: the consequences of buyers, patronage, and politics on his collection of matters and demeanour of operating. whereas different artists produced paintings within the carrier of the kingdom, Canova resisted the blandishments of the political powers that commissioned his works.Johns makes use of letters, diaries, and biographies to set up a political character for Canova as someone and an artist of overseas acceptance. although he had consumers as assorted because the pope, Napoleon, the Austrian Hapsburgs, the Prince Regent of serious Britain, and the Republic of Venice, Canova remained gradually hired and did so with out controversy. A conservative and a Catholic, he devised a method that enabled him to paintings for customers who have been avowed enemies whereas final real to the cultural and creative historical past of his Italian place of origin. utilizing fantasy and funerary pictures and warding off portraiture, he disguised the meanings in the back of his works and hence shunned their being pointed out with any political purpose.Johns enormously complements our figuring out of Canova's position in eu artwork and political historical past, and in exhibiting the impact of censorship, reveal, visible narrative, and propaganda, he highlights concerns as contentious this present day as they have been in Canova's time.

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But I believe that analyzing his politics and those of some of his politically conspicuous patrons will expand and add nuance to the understanding of an era already notable for its politicized visual culture. Indeed, many of the issues that confronted the arts from 1780 to 1820, such as censorship, display, narrative, political engagement, and propaganda, are as problematic for the visual arts today. The intimate connection between art and politics that historically has characterized the artist-patron relationship changed profoundly during the revolutionary and Napoleonic era: many patrons sought to impose their political will more forcefully than ever on cultural production at exactly the moment when artists began to realize their own augmented authority in a vastly expanded public arena.

Antonio Canova was highly intelligent, however, and soon became aware that professional success in the sphere to which his Venetian patrons had elevated him required that he change his dress, manners, and speech and that he apply himself sedulously to fill in the huge Page 17 gaps in his meager education. While still in Zulian's household, he began a course of study with an unofficial tutor, the abbate Bonaiuti, focusing especially on mythology and the classics and on the improvement of his spoken Italian.

Still others, focusing on a single sculpture or a carefully selected group of works, have argued variously that the artist was a Jacobin agnostic, a moderate or liberal Bonapartist, a hidebound reactionary, a pre-Risorgimento Italian nationalist, and many other equally unlikely things. This study attempts to define Canova's personal politics in a systematic and nuanced manner, examining important works for a variety of patrons of widely different political points of view. I believe that the evidence of both the artist's lifesculptures, letters, and biographiesand the range of his European patronage help to reconstruct a political orientation that is complex and highly personal.

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