Liberal Arts Blog — Antonio Canova — “The Three Graces” and “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”
Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day
Today’s Topic: Antonio Canova (1757–1802) — “The Three Graces” and “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”
Last time, Judith (Giorgione), Danae (Rembrandt), and A Lady in the Black Dress (Renoir). Before that The Dance (Matisse), Place de la Concorde (Van Gogh), and The Garden at Etten (Degas). Before that The Conestabile Madonna of Raphael (in which Mary and Baby Jesus are reading a book together), The Lute Player of Caravaggio, The Lunch (Velazquez.) The riches of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg are seemingly endless. Every Friday I love flipping through all the past Hermitage posts before researching the next one. Today, the theme is sculpture. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE THREE GRACES — Antonio Canova (1757–1822)
1. The Three Graces are the daughters of Zeus — Euphrosyne (mirth), Aglaea (elegance), and Thalia (youth/beauty).
2. “The Graces presided over banquets and gatherings, to delight the guests of the gods.”
3. Canova was born in a small town near Venice and, after his father died when he was only 4, was brought up by his paternal grandfather who was a stonemason, the owner of a quarry, and a sculptor. Antonio was an accomplished sculptor by age 10 and the most famous artist in Europe in 1800. Napoleon and his wife Josephine were his clients. It was the Empress who commissioned “The Three Graces.”
NB: Parenthetically, Josephine was Napoleon’s first wife, but he was her second husband — her first having been guillotined during the Reign of Terror. The Emperor would later divorce Josephine but not out of lack of love — only because she bore him no children. He would later re-marry (Marie Louise of Austria), however, on his death bed Napoleon’s final words were: “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine.”
PSYCHE REVIVED BY CUPID’S KISS — Antonio Canova (1757–1822)
1.‘You must run around it, look at it from high and low, up and down, look at it again and keep getting lost.” (Canova)
2. “There is a handle near one of Psyche’s feet as the statue was meant to be able to be revolved on its base. Many of Canova’s sculptures had custom built settings or a device that would move the base, thus the handle provided for some of the movement of the statue.”
3. “This movement emphasizes the emotion and beauty of the sculpture while piquing interest from all angles.”
NB: “He made two versions of this sculptural group of Cupid, god of love, and Psyche; one is now in the Louvre, Paris, while the Hermitage version was originally commissioned by Prince Yusupov. Made in 1796, the sculpture once stood in a room in the Yusupov family’s country home, Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow.”
VIEW SHOWING THE FLASK OF POISON AND THE LIFE-SAVING ARROW
1. Curiosity killed Penelope. She had been told by Venus not to open the flask of beauty she had been instructed to collect from Proserpina in the Underworld. She was hoping to take a little of it for herself.
2. “However, Proserpina had not filled it with the Beauty, but rather with the “Sleep of the Innermost Darkness, the night of Styx, which freed from its cell rushed upon her and penetrated her whole body with a heavy cloud of unconsciousness and unfolded her where she lay.”
3. Thank God for Cupid! “Delicately purging her of the Sleep, which he put back in its original lair the [jar], he roused Psyche with a charming prick of his Arrow.”
NB: The second link includes close-ups of the flask and the quiver. Worth the click.
This is the seventh and final installment of the Hermitage series. Next week: paintings of Notre Dame in Paris. After that brief intermission, a return to the tour of the great art galleries of Europe, starting with the national gallery of Sweden (the “Nationalmuseum”) in Stockholm.
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Please share the coolest thing you learned recently or ever related to art, sculpture, design, architecture, film, or anything visual.
This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And to cement in your own memory something cool or important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that is close to your heart.