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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Antonio Canova
Possagno 1757–1822 Venice

Studies of Two Seated Women

graphite on paper
5 1/8 x 8 inches
131 x 203 mm

inscribed, upper right: ‘39’



with Margot Gordon, New York, 1998
New York, Christie’s, Old Master & British Drawings, 31 January 2019, lot 68

This drawing, numbered upper right, may be dated to the middle of the first decade of the 19th century and was originally part of a sketchbook. The face of the figure seated on the right is reminiscent of that of a peasant girl named Anastasia Pacciotti from Fiano Romano, whom Canova portrayed from life in one of the sheets in his sketchbook F2 now in the Museo Civico in Bassano del Grappa (F2 81.1496). The portrait has been dated ca. 1804–05. The figure’s clothing is typical of that worn by women in the countryside around Rome, while her pose, in its solemnity, echoes classical statuary.

The dating of the drawing is also borne out by the figure on the left, whose pose is close to that of the mourners in Canova’s so-called ‘monochromes’ (also in Bassano del Grappa, M 19 and M20) dated ca. 1805–06. The sculptor used a large number of these monochromes as models for the funerary steles or memorial stones to which he devoted his energies in those same years.

The posture of the figure on the left, with her head resting on her hands alluding to a sentiment of modesty, perfectly encapsulates the theme of Grace as propounded by Neoclassical culture and is a regular feature of Canova’s work. One of the prime examples of this may be seen in a painting entitled The Surprise, dated 1799, which is now in the Museo Canova in Possagno.

We are grateful to Prof. Francesco Leone for the preparation of this entry.❖

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