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Photo courtesy CONTEMPLAZIONI.

February 2024 (G.T.) - Venus and Adonis expose themselves shamelessly in their perfect beauty on the numerous billboards that adorn the Lucca historic centre and seem to be artistic installations themselves. They are announcing an exhibit which would be a sin to miss.

The “Antonio Canova and neoclassicism in Lucca” exhibit is truly a must-see, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi: an extraordinary display of Antonio Canova sculptures from the Antonio Canova Gypsotheca Museum of Possagno (Treviso), as well as prestigious public and private collections, along with the paintings of the greatest representatives of neoclassicism. Over 100 works on display, with the unexpected but coherent presence of sculpture-dresses by renowned stylist Roberto Capucci.


Photo courtesy CONTEMPLAZIONI.

This explanation can be found on the website of Contemplazioni, which organised the exhibit, offering a fascinating itinerary (which attracts novices and surprises art aficionados): “An evocative path that begins from Antonio Canova – universal icon of new classicism – and the most renowned international representatives of classicism like Francisco Goya e Francesco Hayez, all the way to the masters from Lucca and Tuscany of the same genre. Antonio Canova carries out decisive, technical, and intellectual experiences that make him the utmost representative of an art - sculpture - to which Neoclassicism restores the primacy previously practised at the infancy of the Renaissance.

On the left, Venus Italica (1811); exhibit entrance; on the right, Venere and Adone (1794).

In Lucca as well – the native city of neoclassic painters like Pompeo Batoni, Bernardino Nocchi, Stefano Tofanelli – and in the rest of Tuscany, Canova has become the very emblem of neoclassical art, going so far as to influence the art with his taste for perfect symmetries, soft and smooth surfaces, solemn and controlled poses, and impassive expressions.

The first sculpture to welcome exhibit visitors is “Autoritratto” (1812, plaster, Rome, San Luca National Academy), a self-portrait work by Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757-Venice, 1822).

A highly prominent part of Antonio Canova’s creative process is represented by the actual-size plaster models that constitute the moment of passing from an initial conceptive phase to the true realisation of the marble sculpture. Plaster is, in the artist’s act of conception, the fragile and variable moment of feeling the sculpture’s body. They are the most intimate and authentic phase of Antonio Canova’s artistic creation.

Antonio Canova, “Edimione dormiente” (1819).

The Antonio Canova Museum of Possagno houses a priceless patrimony that belongs to the greatest representative of Italian Neoclassicism, conserving its historic and artistic heritage. Its structure is articulated in the Gypsotheca where the original models of Canova’s works are preserved.”

This exhibit is, therefore, a valuable opportunity to immerse yourself for at least a couple of hours in the sublime art of the most relevant representatives of Neoclassicism, skilfully united here to fascinate visitors (who have a valuable audio guide, immersed in soothing surrounding silence, focused on understanding what the artists reveal), pausing at length before sculptures and paintings to take in every detail, surrounded by so many wonders. It is the magic of art, for all.

Mini-display of the exhibit: at the end of the path, a display of Fabio Zonta’s inkjet prints, dedicated to the works of Antonio Canova (on loan from private collections).

INFO. The exhibit – promoted by the Tuscan Region, the City of Lucca, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Lucca, Associazione Lucchesi nel mondo (Lucchesi Association in the world) – is open through 29 September 2024 in the Cavallerizza of Lucca, piazzale Verdi (Porta Sant’Anna entrance), every day, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM (last entry h. 6:45 pm; no reservations needed).

Tickets include the audio guide. Reduced for under 18 and over 65, university students, and families. More info on the CONTEMPLAZIONI website: