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

Theseus and the Centaur

Marble, height 340 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In his later version of the Theseus myth, Canova shows a scene of turbulent struggle. Theseus raises his club in his right hand ready to strike, while already kneeling on the chest of the centaur, who is arched backwards and lying on the ground. The dominant shape of the design is a large triangle formed ofTheseus's right foot, the centaur's left hand propping himself up, and the helmet as the apex.

Although Canova's group resembles the Laocoön group of Antiquity in its expression of pathos and in the presentation of strain in a duel, the rhetorical and scholarly elements dominate in Canova's style, and it was on these that academic tradition would later be based.

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