Thinking about Antonio Canova, we immediately think of the marble beauty of his statues exhibited in the most important museums in the world. The most precious collection of preparatory plaster casts by the great sculptor is kept inside the gallery of plaster casts in his home town in Possagno in the province of Treviso.
Discover what to do in Possagno in this article, the perfect destination for a day trip from Venice and the main cities of Veneto.
The city of Possagno
Nestled at the foot of Monte Grappa, the town of Possagno in the Treviso area is a jewel in which you can breathe the history of art: this small city surrounded by greenery gave birth to one of the greatest Italian sculptors ever, Antonio Canova, in 1757.
Not far from Asolo and Villa Barbaro in Maser, today Possagno is a perfect destination for a day in the footsteps of the great neoclassical artist. There are in fact two important attractions to see and both are connected to Canova: the gallery of plaster casts and the Temple.
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The Gipsoteca Canoviana (the Canova gallery of plaster casts) in Possagno
After Canova's death in 1822, his brother Giovanni Battista Sartori decided to move all the works that were kept in the studio where the artist worked in Rome to Possagno. Next to what had been Canova's birthplace he then created an exhibition space, or plaster cast gallery: a collection mainly of plaster casts to which clay sketches were added, while some drawings are exhibited today in the same birthplace transformed into a museum.
The visit to the Gipsoteca Canova, the plaster cast gallery, is essential to understand how the artist worked and how he had introduced a brilliant intuition into the art world: mass production. In fact, the final marble works are not kept here but the plaster copies that were made as a base, to then reproduce the same statue over and over again. Small nails were affixed to the plaster casts used by Canova's team to take measurements and recreate the work in marble.
Although they are not marble statues, the plaster casts have the same elegance and the visit to the plaster cast gallery allows to admire some of Canova's best works one next to the other: from the Graces to Cupid and Psyche, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Theseus and the centaur.
The museum is even more interesting today thanks to an exhibition wing built in 1957 by the great architect Carlo Scarpa that is added to the original nineteenth-century one and becomes, in turn, a work of art to be studied.
The entrance ticket to the Canova plaster cast gallery costs 10 €; the museum is closed on Mondays. To make the experience even more fascinating, it is possible to take part in a night visit held on every first Saturday of the month and discover the magic of the plaster casts illuminated only by torches and lanterns.
The Temple of Canova in Possagno
The second great work of Canova that can be admired in Possagno is its Temple: at the beginning of the 19th century, the parish church of the Municipality needed restoration and the artist was involved as a possible financier. Canova decided to build a new church instead of intervening on the previous one and to do it completely at his own expense.
Unfortunately, the artist managed to lay the first stone but not to see his work completed, but his tomb today is located right inside the Temple: a tribute joining three great artistic periods in which a Greek pediment inspired by the Parthenon, a central body inspired by the Roman Pantheon and finally the typically Christian apse.
Inside there are other works by Canova such as the altarpiece and the sculpture of the Piety: in this case an unfinished work that the artist made in plaster without being able to complete the transposition in marble due to his passing. Here you can admire a bronze casting of Bartolomeo Ferrari.
Since it is still the parish church of Possagno, the Canovian Temple can be visited every day for free.