The Three Graces by Antonio Canova
“The Three Graces” by Antonio Canova is a Neoclassical statue of the three mythological charities who were daughters of Zeus (the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus).
The three sisters are identified as Euphrosyne, Aglaea and Thalia, from left to right. They represent youth/beauty (Thalia), mirth (Euphrosyne), elegance (Aglaea). The Graces presided over banquets and gatherings, to delight the guests of the gods. The Three Graces have inspired many artists and have served as subjects for many artists.
This masterpiece is carved from white marble and demonstrates Canova’s ability to shape the stone to highlight the Graces’ soft flesh. This was a trademark of the Canova and this piece shows his leadership style in the Neoclassical movement in sculpture.
The three goddesses are huddled together, their heads almost touching and standing leaning slightly inward enjoying their closeness. Their hairstyles are similar, braided and held in a knot. A peaceful balance is achieved, as the sisters embrace and become as one in their embrace, united by their linked hands and by a scarf which provides some modesty. The unity of the Graces is one of the main themes of this masterpiece.
This original statue at the Hermitage Museum was sculpted for Empress Josephine (first wife of Napoleon I) and a second version was commissioned for an English patron, which is now jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and is alternately displayed at each.
Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) was an Italian Neoclassical sculptor, famous for his marble sculptures. Canova was regarded as one of the greatest of the Neoclassical artists; his artwork was inspired by the Baroque and the Classical Revival. Canova’s passion in sculptures were either Heroic compositions, compositions of Grace, or Tomb monuments.
Antonio Canova was born in the Venetian Republic and unfortunately, his father was a stonecutter, died when Canova was three years old, Fortunately, he was put into the care of his paternal grandfather who was a stonemason and a sculptor who specialised in altars with statues and low reliefs. His grandfather led Antonio into the art of sculpting. At the age of nine, Antonio Canova executed two small shrines of Carrara marble, which are still in existence. After these works, he was employed under his grandfather as a sculptor.
Antonio Canova worked in Venice, Rome, France and England and by 1800, Canova was the most celebrated artist in Europe. He promoted his reputation by publishing engravings of his works and having marble versions of plaster casts made in his workshop. He was so successful that he had patrons from across Europe including France, England, Russia, Poland, Austria and Holland. In 1820, Canova made a statue of George Washington for the state of North Carolina.
Explore Antonio Canova
- Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (Hermitage Museum)
- Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (Louvre)
- The Three Graces (Hermitage Museum)
- The Three Graces (Victoria and Albert Museum)
- Perseus with the Head of Medusa (Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET)
Explore the Hermitage Museum
- “Madonna Litta” attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
- Composition VI by Kandinsky
- “Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate” by Francisco Goya
- “White House at Night” by Vincent van Gogh
- “The Three Graces” by Antonio Canova
- Egyptian Collection in the Hermitage Museum
- Gonzaga Cameo
- “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” by Antonio Canova
- Title: Three Graces
- Artist: Antonio Canova
- Year: 1813 – 1816
- Place Created: Italy
- Medium: Marble
- Dimensions Height: 182 cm (71.7 in).
- Museum: Hermitage Museum
- Name: Antonio Canova
- Born: 1757 – Possagno, Republic of Venice
- Died: 1822 (aged 64) – Venice, Lombardy–Venetia
- Nationality: Italian
- Movement: Neo-Classical
- Notable works:
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Photo Credit: 1) By Stebanoid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons