CANOVA, Antonio
(b. 1757, Possagno, d. 1822, Venezia)

Theseus and the Minotaur

Marble, 145,4 x 158,7 x 91,4 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In autumn 1779, Canova undertook the obligatory study trip to Rome, where he not only became familiar with sculptural works of the past, but also came into close contact with the artists and critics of contemporary avant-garde. A cast of the Daedalus-Icarus group confirmed him as having great sculptural talents, but he was nonetheless advised to work in the future in the style demanded by Winckelmann. He was given an opportunity to do this when he was commissioned by Girolamo Zulian, the Venetian ambassador in Rome, to do a Theseus and the Minotaur group in 1781. Canova created a sculpture whose subject is not Theseus' struggle, but the victor in brooding pose sitting on the defeated enemy. Showing the melancholy, ruminative moment after the deed was more in keeping with the new view of art than the traditional scene of the dramatic struggle with the Cretan monster.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Theseus, overture