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Empire Era, North Italy
Gentleman made with terracotta on a white Carrara marble.
The man is represented with his face turned to the right and a proud look toward the sky.
The tension of his neck gives a sense of natural head motion. His “brutus” hairstyle, short hair with irregular bangs on forehead, very popular around the firsts decades of 19th century, is finely made. His face show well-defined trails. . His high forehead is framed by locks of hair. His nose is evident but bilance and is symbol of the gentleman’s virility. His thin lips do not reveal emotions. His look is proud and arrogant, recalls the erotic and triumphant climate typical of the Napoleonic ages.
The clothing also recalls the canons of the time: habit à la francaise with tailcoat, waistcoat, shirt with upright collar (and raised tips), tie tied with gala and carrik (long overcoat with double cape and long lapels).
Much attention is paid to the details of the garments worn: in particular the tie, a long thin strip of linen or silk turned several times around the neck and knotted on the front, has a particularly articulated and complex bow and the brim / lapel of the overcoat is made in order to recall the softness of the furs.
Dimensions cm.60 x 55 x 26 , base h 14cm
Historical Stylistic Analysis:
The peculiar characteristics of the bust mark the probable belonging to a prestigious cultural environment.
Even if it was not possible to identify neither the portrait man and the sculptor, the marked trails permit to place the art piece at the beginning of 19th century. The most plausible reference, considering the quality and finesse of the work, is clearly the environment linked to Canova: expressive strength, attention to detail, plasticity of the rendering allow us to believe that the author may have operated in the Lombardy-Veneto area under its direct influence. The advent of Napoleon emperor on the European political scene in 1804 determined a fruitful period of Canova’s artistic production, during which he produced, in addition to the numerous and most famous works, also some busts of the Napoleonic and his own self-portrait showing stylistic and cultural affinities with the one in question.
In particular Napoleon’s bust is preserved in Chatworth Devonshire Collection(1803): after Canova’s deseappearance the art piece was sold to the marquise Anna of Aubercorn who leaved it to the sixth duke of Devonshire who put the piece in the middle of the sculpture collection of Chatswoth’s residence, in front of Alexander the Great’s bust.
In the chalk prototype (today preserved it the Possago’s plaster cast gallery- illustration 2) Napoleon is portrayed in uniform, front-side, with hollow eyes but still and lightly facing down as a sign of reflection and concentration; his frowning eyebrows express the the depth of thoughts. His evident chin and his full face transmit coldness but also freshness of youth.
In the marble bust (illustration 1) Napoleon is undressed of his military clothes and represented naked. The consul is portrayed sideways with his neck twisted given motion to the figure, making it alive and less static the the prototype.
His forehead is high, framed by locks of hair that fall on his face with refined shabbiness. The hairstyle are a distinctive sign of that time: Napoleon had made fashionable short hair, diffused after French Revolution as a signs of discontinuity with the past ( “alla Caracalla” or “alla Tito” or “alla Bruto”). His eyes are are hollow and his look is lost. His evident nose gives a sense of virility. His thin lips lightly show emotions.
Other works of Canova that reminds to the one of the anonymous author are the bust f Francesco I of Austria (preserved at the Kunsthistorches Museum of Vienna-1804-1805- Illustration 3) and his self portrait ( preserved in Possagno-1912- Illustration 4)