Canova at Work

terracotta sculpture of George Washington

Canova worked on the statue of Washington in Rome between 1817 and 1820. Many letters between Consul Appleton, in Livorno, and the artist allow us to trace the commission carefully.

Canova began work in the summer of 1817, producing a number of drawings and three-dimensional sketches in preparation for the life-size modello (in the Oval Room). The objects surviving from this process — two drawings and four three-dimensional sketches (bozzetti) — demonstrate how Canova developed his ideas for the sculpture. Once he had produced a final small bozzetto, he began creating the life-size model, which was completed in the spring of 1818.

While working on the sculpture, Canova had assistants and his half-brother read aloud a history of the American Revolution. He later wrote, in admiration, of “the immortal Washington…the genius who has performed such sublime deeds, for the safety and liberty of his country.”

© Roma - Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali - Museo di Roma; photo Mauro Magliani