PAULINE BONAPARTE – Canova 1805
Paolina Bonaparte is sculpted like a Winning Venus.
As in the case of all sculpture of the second half of the eighteenth century, even in this work by Canova the moving forms, richly decorated, with strong contrasts, are replaced with sculptures with rigorous characters, devoid of decoration, which take their cue from the Roman copies of classical sculptures geche, immovable in monumental and timeless positions.
Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, married Prince Camillo Borghese and was portrayed by Canova at the age of 25.
Like the victorious Venus, Paolina holds the apple of Victory in her left hand.
The light slides softly on the various parts of the sculpture and creates gradual chiaroscuro passages. There are no great contrasts between relief parts and hollow parts, so that a great movement is not formed as in the case of Baroque sculptures.
The horizontal lines predominate, balanced by some vertical ones, the drapery, the bust, connected by soft curves that start from Paolina’s extended leg to go up towards the profile.
The sculpture is a real round. Canova designed the portrait in its entirety, to be seen from every angle.
The statue was conceived as an example of classical beauty and formal balance taking inspiration from the Greek-Roman statuary. The forms are soft and sinuous, the modeling of the body free from bumps. The cushions and drapery have been sculpted with a great sense of realism and attention to the compositional lines.
Paolina Bonaparte is portrayed as a classical goddess, lying on an agrippina, and wrapped in drapery. Canova is inspired by the figure of Venus, as painted by Renaissance artists. According to Greek mythology, Paris had the task of establishing which of the two goddesses, Athena or Aphrodite, was the most beautiful and to deliver the symbol of Victory to the chosen one. Paris handed over the pommel to Venus.