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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

Zuliani hesitated to accept it


Canova had a great desire to undertake a group of some important subject, and Zuliani was his friend in this; for he gave him the marble, and promised if no other purchaser appeared to give him the full value of the work when completed. He also gave him a workshop in the Venetian Palace, to which no one had access, where he could be entirely free and undisturbed. The subject chosen for the group was Theseus vanquishing the Minotaur, and the size was to be colossal. Canova now worked with untiring devotion; he was often seen before the statues on Monte Cavallo, with sketch-book in hand, as soon as it was light enough for him to see, and he studied faithfully in the museums and galleries of Rome. His friends in Venice had secured for him a pension of three hundred ducats, which placed him above want, and he was free to devote himself to his Theseus, although while at work on that he made a statue of Apollo, which was exhibited with Angelini's Minerva, and received much praise.

Meantime no one knew of the Theseus save the ambassador. When it was finished Zuliani prepared it for exhibition, and invited all the most distinguished men in Rome to an entertainment. A model of the head of Theseus was put in a prominent place, and the guests were busy in discussing it; they asked questions and expressed opinions, and when their interest was well awakened Zuliani said: "Come, let us end this discussion by seeing the original," and the statue was unveiled before their eyes. Canova often declared that death itself could not have been more terrible to him than were those moments. But he and all else were forgotten in the surprise and admiration which the group excited; in that hour the artists who afterward hated him gave him their sincere praise. From that day the fame of Canova was established.

Very soon he was selected to erect a monument to Clement XIV. This pope was a famous man; he was the collector of the Clementine Museum, the author of the elegant letters known by his family name of Ganganelli, and, above all, he was the suppressor of the Jesuits. While Canova felt the honor that was thus offered him he also thought himself bound to consult those who had conferred his pension upon him, and thus helped him to become the artist that he was. He went, therefore, to Venice and sought direction from the Senate; he was told to employ his time as should be most profitable to himself. He therefore gave up his studio in Venice, and as his patron, Zuliani, had now left Rome, he fitted up the studio in the Strada Babbuino, which became so well known to lovers of art of all nations who visited Rome. In 1787 the above monument was exhibited, and was much admired. An engraving was made from it and dedicated to Zuliani; but Canova desired to do something more worthy for his patron, and made a statue of Psyche as a gift to him; Zuliani hesitated to accept it, but finally consented to do so if Canova would in turn accept a number of silver medals with the Psyche on one side and a head of Canova on the other, which he could give to his friends. In the midst of all this Zuliani died, and his heirs were so angry because he had left works of art to the Public Library that they refused to carry out his plans. In the end the Psyche was bought by Napoleon and presented to the Queen of Bavaria.

[Illustration: FIG. 115.--THE THREE GRACES. _By Canova._]


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