Canova: The classic ideal between sculpture and painting

Not since the famous Venice exhibition of 1992 has the wonderful art of Canova been collected together…to amaze and leave whoever sees it breath-taken. And now, at Forlì 17 years later, the beautiful works of Canova return to the scene at the San Domenico Museums with a remarkable exhibition: “Canova.  L’ideale classic tra scultura e pittura” (“Canova.  The classic ideal between sculpture and painting”).

More than 200 works of art in all, 26 sculptures of marble and plaster, a jubilation of dancers: the one with its finger on its chin, the one with its hands by its side, with veils, crowns, and also worshipping, cherubs, little cupids, and a pair of Hebe pouring nectar. “With a single characteristic: – explains Antonio Palucci, curator of the exhibition – which those marble sculptures seem to be touching and appear to be alive and palpitating. There is flesh and blood, in Canova”. Beauty in one of its most spectacular forms: the art of Antonio Canova (1757-1822), the best exponent of Neo-Classicism and nicknamed the new Phidias for this reason.

With this exhibition on Canova, Forli is again the centre of attention for art lovers both nationally and internationally. An exhibition which ranges from sculpture to painting, also proposing a high comparison with Raffaello and Tiziano, and other masterpieces of that classicism which was the source of inspiration for many artists between the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.  Forli can be defined with pride as a “Canovian” city.  In fact, Canova did three masterpieces for Forli people.  One version of Hebe, one of his most popular works, was completed between 1816 and 1817 for Countess Veronica Guarini.  Preceding Hebe, in 1814, was the Dancer with finger on chin, commissioned for banker Domenico Manzoni and becoming lost after the atrocious bloody death of its owner, the mystery still being unsolved today.  This event was represented by Canova in the funerary stele stone of Domenico Manzoni, and has been put in the section of the exhibition dedicated to the “scultore filosofo ed it tema della morte” (“philosopher sculptor and the theme of death”).

In the exhibition at the Musei di San Domenico (San Domenico Museums) there are also some ancient sculpture masterpieces: ‘Arianna with the Panther’, from the Uffizi Gallery, Florence; ‘The Dancers’ from Tivoli; the ‘Flying Mercury’ from Giambologna and paintings of Hebe.  Among the many masterpieces on exhibition are also the famous ‘Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss’ compared with the creations of painters such as Giani, Landi, Angelica Kauffmann and Francesco Hayez who had the same themes in the same period.  Then ‘The Dancer’, Terpsichore, the statue in movement of Orpheus and the great paintings in tempera of Canova which have finally been restored.  From the Vatican Museums come the two colossal Boxers, inspired by the ‘Dioscuri’ of the Quirinal Palace.  Also featured are some masterpieces such as the ‘Venus Italica’ from Palazzo Pitti and the penitent ‘Mary Magdalene’ sent by the Hermitage Museum.

Antonio Canova worked for popes, sovereigns, emperors and princes from all over the world. He usually used white marble for his sculptures which he managed to make harmonious, modeling with plasticity and grace, refinement and delicacy, so much so that his figures almost seem to be in movement, to be living in their immobility.  Another special characteristic of his talent is the rub-down finish of the works and thanks to this fine work, his works have a special sheen effect which accentuates the natural and splendid beauty of them; a radiant beauty of purity according to the canons of the most orthodox classicism, the representation of idealized, eternal and universal beauty.  He was influenced in this by the themes and literature of Greek mythology classics which he usually read while he worked, and among these were the works of Homer which he read more than any others.

There are numerous hotels in this area, surrounded by the rolling hills of Emilia Romagna: many different hotels from the point of view of their architecture, but all with the same charm and comforts…assets which blend perfectly with the beauty of the works of Canova.

We begin with a fantastic stay in the elegant Hotel Villa Roncuzzi, a little corner of paradise in the heart of Emilia Romagna, surrounded by a splendid park with swimming pool and a large internal court yard full of flowers and featuring a Liberty-style mountain.  Since the beginning of the 20th century, this country residence has offered charming rooms, each one enhanced by lovely frescoes, sculptures, ceramics and rich fabrics.  A wine cellar with a large selection of famous Italian wines, the “Le Agavi” bar with its fantastic cocktails and an abundant buffet breakfast are part of the facilities of this enchanting hotel.

In the area between Castel San Pietro Terme and Dozza, near Imola, and on a pleasant hill with cypress trees, is Monte del Re, a 13th-century monastery, defined in a diploma dating from 1266 as the “Colle del Paradiso” (the “Hill of Paradise”), and which is now a charming and renowned place.  In particular, its position on a hill attracts clients looking for places of naturalistic interest, together with comfort and good food.  The elegance of the furnishings, the architecture and its historical past makes Monte Del Re one of the reference points for more refined and demanding customers, who love to choose places of historical interest which give rise to strong emotions.

Finally, we recommend the south of Emilia Romagna, on the border of the Marche and San Marino regions, where there is a fascinating castle with medieval origins – Castello di Montegridolfo – Hotel Palazzo Viviani. An atavistic/ancestral atmosphere, almost spellbinding, enchants guests who stay in the ‘Torre della Porta’ (‘Gateway Tower’).  All around are green hills going gently down to the Adriatic Sea, which is only a few kilometers away.  Apart from the aristocratic residence ‘Charming House Palazzo Viviani’, the Castello di Montegridolfo also offers the ‘Casa del Pittore’ (‘Painter’s House’), a discrete residence situated in the magnificent gardens of the Palazzo, which has the most modern comforts and facilities.  The castle also boasts a refined choice of furnishings, mostly original, in the apartments and suites of the old village outside of the castle walls, surrounded by the magic of the ‘Borgo degli Ulivi’ (‘Village of Olive Trees’).

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