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

Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker

Bronze, height 325 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

In 1802 Canova traveled to Paris, to work on a portrait bust of Napoleon. The plan to make a statue of the First Consul led to a many difficulties. Napoleon expected to be shown in the uniform of a French general, while Canova firmly rejected this. He wanted a statue in heroic nudity showing the ruler as the Greek god of War, Mars, who brings peace by his deeds. However, Napoleon appreciated that the public representation of modern power could not be done with larger-than-life heroic nudity of the classical hero. Nudity as an attribute could not be used anymore.

The complete marble sculpture reached Paris only in 1811, but it was not installed. The bronze version, ordered by the Viceroy of Napoleonic Italy for the Foro Napoleonico in Milan, likewise failed to make it to installation. When the huge statue was finally cast in 1812, it landed in the courtyard of the Milan Senate, then it was stored in the Museo di Brera.