French Sculpture 1800-1825


Head of Napoleon, 1802

Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was considered the greatest sculptor of his time in Europe. His work and personality became a model for all sculptors for many years. In 1802, Canova was invited to Paris by Napoleon, in order to carve marble portraits of the emperor and his mother and sister. Canova illustrates the Romantic Classicism that was so valued at the time: he creates daring images of seductive elegance and form. Both the supple figures and tactful features of his work recall the earlier Rococo, with its charm and realism, but he is firmly Neoclassic in his approach. 'Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss' was commissioned in 1787 and acquired by Joachim Murat in 1800, and entered the Louvre in 1824. Canova was a prolific sculptor, and he seduced the whole of Europe with his mythological compositions in which the purity of contours was used to portray a discrete eroticism. In the area of portraiture he was the absolute champion of idealization. He displayed a sensibility both to naturalism and to the early Renaissance, opening the way to two dominant trends at the beginning of the century: skilled realism and historical subject matter.

Cupid and Psyche, 1820


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