Canova’s George Washington

Aug 08, 2018 214

The story tells itself. In 1816, the legislature of the state of North Carolina authorized the commission of a monumental statue of George Washington – founding father, hero of the American Revolution, first president of the United States. From his retirement in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson – founding father, diplomat, third president of the United States – weighed in, insisting that the only sculptor for the job was the Italian master Antonio Canova (1757-1822), whose studio was in Rome.

By 1821, Canova’s monumental marble was installed in the State House in Raleigh. But a scant decade later, fire swept through the Capitol. The roof caved in and crushed Canova’s masterpiece. Now, Canova’s life-sized plaster modello for the work, on loan from the Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova, in Possagno, Italy, is on view at the Frick Collection through September 23. 

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