Modello for George Washington

sculpture of George Washington seated holding tablet

Antonio Canova (1757–1822)
Modello for George Washington, 1818
66 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 54 3/4 in. (169 x 100 x 139 cm)
Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova, Possagno
Fondazione Canova onlus, Possagno; photo Fabio Zonta  


Before carving the marble block for a sculpture, Canova typically created a full-size plaster preparatory model (modello). This modello provides the closest idea of the destroyed marble. It was completed in April 1818, as attested by the inscription on the back.

The modello, which has traveled outside of Italy for the first time for this exhibition, is shown here alone to echo the effect the marble sculpture would have had in the rotunda of the Raleigh State House. Washington — the lawgiver and father of the United States — is seen drafting his farewell address: “Giorgio Washington / Al Popolo degli Stati Uniti / 1796 / Amici e Concittadini” (George Washington / To the People of the United States / 1796 / Friends and Citizens). The base of the statue, and of the others in this exhibition, in faux marble, is after a design by Canova himself, which he used for his plaster modelli, now mostly at the Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova in Possagno.

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