Canova | Thorvaldsen. La nascita della scultura moderna

Gallerie d’Italia, Milan

The exhibition Canova | Thorvaldsen. La nascita della scultura moderna is an exceptional opportunity to discover eighteenth and nineteenth-century sculpture, given the importance and the beauty of the exhibited works, as well as its remarkable academic value.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a time when this art underwent a pivotal transformation thanks to the genius of the Italian Antonio Canova (Possagno 1757 – Venice 1822) and the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen (Copenhagen 1770 – 1844): eminent figures and rivals on the still majestic scene of a cosmopolitan Rome where they were able to draw from the universal values of classicism and antiquity. Because of this, they were recognised and celebrated as the “modern classics”, capable of reshaping the very idea of sculpture and its technique, sculpting timeless masterpieces that were admired and popular all over the world, having been continually reproduced.

A prestigious partnership between the Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen and the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, as well as major loans from leading Italian and international museums and exclusive private collections have made it possible to compare the two artists in an exhibition for the first time, following them on their fascinating biographical and creative journey.

The comparison had originally taken place in Rome, where they spent most of their lives and achieved fame thanks to an extraordinary career. Canova moved there in 1781 from Venice, while the younger Thorvaldsen joined him in 1797 from Copenhagen. In the following two decades and beyond, when their presence made Rome the capital of modern sculpture, they were rivals and challenged each other with the same motifs and subjects, each giving his own original take. These were the figures from ancient mythology who, including the Graces, Cupid and Psyche, Venus, Hebe, were the embodiment of the great universal themes of life and death in the Western collective imagination, such as the short journey of youth, the charm of beauty, flattery and the woes of love.

The opportunity to bring their most beautiful statues together under one roof allows for a genuine Olympus in marble form, an emblem of a civilisation that looked to antiquity, but at the same time aspired to modernity. Canova was the revolutionary artist, capable of elevating sculpture above the other arts, through the interplay with and outclassing of Antiquity. Thorvaldsen, studying the work and techniques of his rival, was inspired by a more austere and nostalgic idea of classicism, heralding a new era of Nordic art dominated by a timeless fascination with the Mediterranean world.


from 25.10.2019 to 28.06.2020
Opening hours
from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Last admission: 1 hour before closing. Closed on Mondays. Prices

Combined ticket valid for the exhibitions and permanent collections:
– full-price: €10.00
– reduced: €8.00
– special reduction: €5.00