Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, October 14, 2022

Sculptor Canova's mark on Rome

Canova's kiln, with Franz Prati's painting,
inside art space Canova22

Antonio Canova, the sculpture of the famously sexy (and mostly naked) Pauline Bonaparte as Venus (in the Galleria Borghese in Rome), is having a comeback on several fronts, one of them in Rome.

Pauline, in eternal recline at the Galleria
Borghese, in the Villa Borghese park in Rome.

Canova was considered the best sculptor of the 19th century, but as a neoclassicist, his reputation ebbed during the 20th century. Born in the Veneto in 1757 and centered in Venice, he also travelled widely and had a studio in Rome, where, in the early 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte's sister (who married into the prominent Borghese family) was his model.

Above, the sculptures in marble, bronze, and plaster
that surround diners at the Caffé Canova Tadolini

on via del Babuino in Rome.

Canova self-portrait 1792. 
(Credit here.)

While the sculpture is on display only by means of a ticket to the Galleria Borghese, there are quite a few other "sightings" for Canova within the Eternal City. We went to one this year, discovering that the kiln where Canova's works were fired has been made into an arts and events space of note. It's Canova22, on via Canova at #22 (around the corner from via del Corso), a 4 minute walk from the studio (now a café), on via del Babuino. 

Above, Franz Prati describes his 
painting to Dianne, inside the Canova22

Mara Van Wees's sculpture in 
the Canova22 space.

One of the "soci," or members of the art collective at Canova22, Franz Prati, showed us around the exhibition of his paintings and sculptures by his colleague, Mara Van Wees. He also explained the performance art and dance events that have been held inside what was the "fornace" or kiln. It's an evocative space, beautifully restored and converted for the arts collective.

The space/collective has a sophisticated website with information and photos, even a video of a performance taking place in the space. The website is useful for upcoming events as well. (only in Italian).

Prati also showed us a picture of the street where the kiln is located, from the era. You can compare that (left) with the street today (right, below).

And if you want to stop by the café for a drink and sit amid the sculptures, go for it!

Caffé Canova Tadolini occupies the studio where Canova and his prize pupil, Adamo Tadolini, did their work. The baboon- (sort of) faced creature, or "babuino." gracing the fountain at left, is the one for which the street is named. Reviews suggest an espresso or glass of wine; skip the food.