Sketchbook # 20: Antonio Canova

“Canova: Sketching in Clay” The National Gallery of Art, June 11 – October 9, 2023

The first time Canova surprised me was in Berlin at the Bode Museum. I was looking at Female Dancer and a red train flew by in the adjacent window and suddenly I saw how beautiful she was.

The second time was last Sunday at The National Gallery in DC. A show of the sketches in clay and plaster that Canova made before executing his sculptures in marble. He called this “inventing”. There is also a film of a contemporary sculptor recreating his process.

There are more than 30 sketches and many finished marble sculptures. The first of the terra cotta sketches are tiny—not much bigger than a human hand. The plaster one is halfway between the terra cotta sketch and the finished marble. I’m only showing here the sketches and the final sculpture of “Madame Mere” (Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte—Napoleon’s mother) 1805/1807.

If you get a chance, it’s a marvelous show. My pictures don’t begin to capture it. I’ve put Female Dancer from The Bode at the bottom and a link to the video.







Antonio Canova “Female Dancer” (1809/1812)
The Bode Museum, Berlin

The video is on this page:
Canova:Sketching in Clay