Head of Medusa
The artist of the piece was Antonio Canova 1757-1822 who was the son of a Venetian stonemason in Italy. The skill of Canova laid mainly on chisel and sculpturing wherein he mastered the elegant Rococo style of the late 1700s. Canova became one of the court sculptors the serviced Napoleon during his time. Among his famous work is the Head of Medusa in 1801 B. C, which he patterned from the Greek mythology Medusa. Canova’s style mainly reclined in the concept of Neo-classical perspective that was very much admired by Napoleon during that time.
The skill of Canova had centered mainly on marble sculptures and distinct nudity, which he usually applied to his arts and sculptures in order to show the presence of humanism and life in the art. According to Steves and Openshaw (2007), Canova was inspired by the renaissance form of art, which shows in the concepts of his artistic pieces (103). The style incorporated by Canova had influenced the neo-classical designs in Europe, which soon became the trend all across the European architecture.
Added by Steves and Openshaw (2007), the works of Canova combined the styles of Rococo sentiments and the elegance present through his cool and minimal classicism (103). Aside from being commissioned for the sculpturing of the piece, Canova had made the entire sculpture including the statue of Perseus in order to illustrate his opposition against Napoleon’s conquest. As supported by Belting and Atkins (2001), the idea of gripping the head of medusa was actually a protective symbol to ward off further theft: the Medusas’ baleful gaze threatened all would be malefactors with transformation into stone (44).
The sculpture with the head of Medusa signified the political standing of Canova during their time, most significantly when Napoleon’s conquests were recognized by different states. Patron Most significantly, the considered patron of Antonio Canova was Falier of Venice who somehow influenced his idealism in rendering his marble sculptures. Through Falier, Canova was directed under the supervision of Bernardi, who was a well-known sculpturist at that point (Teotochi et. al. 1849).
However, even with Falier as the patron of Canova, his works depicting the Medusa’s head did not entirely originated from his influence; although, it was the argument between Falier and Napoleon that provided him the idea for carrying out the statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa in 1804 to 1806. The carvings of the sculpture from 1804 and 1808 was commissioned by Valeria Tarnowska; hence, named as Tarnowska Perseus, which included the head of the medusa (Cornellius and Gerald 140).
The events that occurred during the reign of Napoleon had ignited the opposition of some artists including Canova. Despite of Napoleon’s favor and regards towards his work, Canova, commissioned by the Tarnowska, had dedicated his piece to the conquests and depriving actions of Napoleon (Pevsner and Williamson 210). However, as added by the writings in The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany (1825), Falier and Bernardi had significantly aided the development of the sculpturing skill of Canova, which enhanced his drawing and modeling (Pevsner and Williamson 210).
Through this, he was able to denounce his political inclination in the sense of an artist’s opposition without the knowledge of Napoleon (Cornellius and Gerald 140). Iconography The presence of iconography in the work of Canova can be traced back during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte wherein a so called “artist revolution” had provided their opposition against the rulership of Napoleon. In this period, different artists were tasked to service their skills to Napoleon’s government in an effort of glorifying the figure of Napoleon and France.
Some of the artists that were commissioned for the sake of this campaign were Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824), and, the main character, Antonio Canova (1757-1822) (Cornellius and Gerald 140). According to the arguments of Canova, his task as an artist was founded in the basis of independence; hence, he did not consider any political or public intrusion in his fashion. The gravest reason he had for opposing the rulership of Napoleon was that it was with his command, conquest and army that his homeland had perished (Pevsner and Williamson 210).
However, under the agreed diplomatic policies of Francois Cacault (1743-1805), and Pope Pius VII (1742-1843), Canova had forcefully provided his service to for Napoleon’s propaganda in 1802. With the sculpture of Persius and the Head of Medusa, Canova had illustrated his intense emotion not by the physical appearance of the art but rather the message it conveyed to the viewers. The iconography present in his piece was his hatred towards the administration of Napoleon (Pevsner and Williamson 210). Function
During the time of the art’s progression, the main function embedded to the art was to form part of napoleon’s propaganda of commemorating his glorious governance (Pevsner and Williamson 210). Canova and other artists had been commissioned for the very purpose of providing an honoring imagery to the administration of Napoleon. Originally, the work of Canova had been part of the Vatican antique collection of artist’s sculpture (Cornellius and Gerald 140). It was meant for the public to see the renaissance pieces and the style they utilized during that time.
However, the very purpose of the piece was not only for public viewing, but rather Canova had used this figure and other master pieces he made in order to relay the message of his own personal hatred to the governance and activity of Napoleon (Pevsner and Williamson 210). The target audience as according to the critics was Napoleon himself; however, even he failed to recognize the message, although he was alarmed by the aggressive interface placed in the sculpture (Cornellius and Gerald 140).
From the imagery of the head of the Medusa, the concept of art present evidently relied in the sense of artistic opposition by the concept of Persius inferiority to Medusa. Materials The sculpture of Canova utilized Carrara marble in a 7 feet tall fashion. During the imperial era and the time of Italian reign, the trend for the main material used in Italy is none other that the Carrara marble, which was also known as the Italian marble (BIlde et. al. 15). The use of Carrara marbles had in fact marked the identity of renaissance sculpting in which the trends of marble sculpture relied mostly on this type of material.
In using the pieces of refined Carrara marbles, the technique involved was the piercing of the parts together in order to obtain the image for architectural purposes. Otherwise, sculptures utilized this material but design the whole figure as a whole block of marble (BIlde et. al. 15). Although, the use of obvious piercing was not evident in the statue of the Head of the Medusa, this type of technique had become the trends during the Hellenistic period wherein sculptors, such as Canova, had used to maintain the stability and adherence of their sculpture parts (BIlde et. al. 15).
Head sculptures were usually added separately by parts, either across the neck, in which case they are secured with an iron dowel, or with a conical neck-piece let into a bowl-shaped cavity and fastened with an adhesive (BIlde et. al. 15). Style Most evidently, the style utilized by the art of Canova in the Head of Medusa is the Rococo style influenced by the two Hellenistic designs of sculpturing (Belting and Atkins 44). Canova, from his very young age, had mastered this form of design, and trained by the Benardi, he was able to construct an image inclined to the ideologies of Renaissance theme.
In the emphasis of the Rococo style, this form of design had significantly progress even the future trends of architectural designs (Steves and Openshaw 103). Rococo style endeavors the piece with the sense of elegance marked by the luxurious impression of the smooth curving, more emphasized in clothing or smooth services of the sculpture. The style had been present ever since the renaissance artist boom in Italy had began in 1700s, and part of which was Antonio Canova, who also gain advantage over this Rococo style (Belting and Atkins 44).
However, other than applying this concept to his architectural designs, he also used this in his sculpture to give more emphasis to his neo-classical design (Steves and Openshaw 103). As according to his concept, the features of neoclassicism can, aside from enhancing the life of the imagery, it can also provide the sense of higher value. French artists of Canova’s time had also regarded the sense of Rococo style in relevance to the design of neoclassicism (Belting and Atkins 44). In this sense, the sculpture designs obtain delicate and significantly detailed trademarks (Steves and Openshaw 103).
The renaissance era had obtained their popularity in this type designs, while Canova utilized this sense of neoclassicism not to reveal of the details to his Head of Medusa, but rather to focus more and to give significant emphasis on the details of facial expressions and real life action, which somehow made his piece unique and true to life (Steves and Openshaw 103). Social Context Significantly, Napoleon had admired the works of Canova especially with his skill to give life to his sculptures.
Napoleon required the use his service for the sake of his propaganda with the task of glorifying the presence of his governance. However, Canova had always been in opposition with Napoleon’s rule, especially with the fact that his administration had always incurred the task of conquer and wars, which was an unacceptable activity in the site of the artist. Furthermore, Canova’s letters somehow signified the sense of ill feelings he had against the leadership of the French ruler. Clearly, he stated that he despised to participate in any of Napoleon’s propaganda (Pevsner and Williamson 210).
The presence of argument between the Canova and Napoleon had given the inspiration of Persius with the Head of Medusa. In this work of art, Canova used his sculpture and the ancient mythology to reveal the sense of figurative message pertaining to Napoleon, The novelty and valor of Persius, even in his godly image, stood less appealing and defeated under the Medusas’ glare. Considering How Persius hold the head of Medusa, even his stance was aware of the possible effects of the demi-god’s stare.
Canova had utilized this interpretation to imply an insult to the rulership of Napoleon (Pevsner and Williamson 210). Moreover, the sculptural designs of Canova did not please the eyes of Napoleon nor he obtained the message behind the image, but because of the aggressive motives that Canova used, he condemned the purpose of his propaganda as failure.
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