Sculpture Journal

Canova, 1816: marble, plaster, surface

Sculpture Journal (2019), 28, (3), 315–330.

Abstract

In late 1818, newspapers in Cork, Ireland, effused about the arrival and installation of an extraordinary cache of plaster casts, reportedly executed under the direction of the celebrated sculptor Antonio Canova. The casts’ arrival in Cork marked the unexpected culmination of a circuitous path beginning with their commission in 1816 and including their journey from Rome to London in the following year. An account of the casts’ mobility and volatility – understood at once in terms of their movement and what may be gleaned about their reception – opens on to two interrelated avenues of inquiry. How might we conceive of the relationship of these casts to the medium of plaster as it was activated in Canova’s sculptural practice, and despite his declared antipathy to the medium? And how might an aesthetics of plaster be understood relative to Canova’s distinctive investment in the processes and metaphorics of sculptural surface as quasi-epidermis, a matter of pronounced significance and widespread reflection circa 1816?

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Author details

Betzer, Sarah