The great Franciscan basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is full to the brim with monuments to the great and the good (or should I say the rich and the powerful). Most are bombastic and extravagant concoctions of marble, but there is one which is a somewhat quieter affair.
The tomb of the sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822), the last great hero of neo-classicism, takes the form of a monumental pyramid. It was modelled on the master's own design for a never-realised memorial to Titian and carved by five of his own pupils.
The two weeping figures on the right represent Painting and Architecture, while in the centre, cloaked, veiled and carrying an urn (containing Canova's heart), is Sculpture. To the left rests the languorous winged figure of Genius.
On seeing Canova's tomb, the Victorian art critic and writer John Ruskin (1819-1900) wrote: 'The tomb of Canova, by Canova, cannot be missed; consummate in science, intolerable in affectation, ridiculous in conception, null and void to the uttermost in invention and feeling'.
I think we can safely say that Mr Ruskin was not a fan!
Blogging about Venice:
its art, history & culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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