Antonio Canova's Mellerio monuments reunited at the Canova Museum in Possagno

From May 5 to November 5, 2022, an exhibition at the Canova Museum in Possagno will extraordinarily reunite the Mellerio monuments, the two stelae that Antonio Canova made between 1812 and 1814 for Count Giacomo Mellerio.

From May 5 to November 5, 2022, the Museo Gypsotheca Antonio Canova in Possagno is offering the second exhibition of the 2022 Canovian Anniversaries, an initiative celebrating the 200th anniversary of the death of the genius of Neoclassicism, the great Antonio Canova (Possagno, 1757 - Venice, 1822). It is the exhibition Canova and Grief. The Mellerio Stelae. The renewal of sepulchral representation, conceived by Vittorio Sgarbi and curated by Francesco Leone and Stefano Grandesso, with the artistic direction of Contemplazioni: the exhibition finds its climax in the recomposition, for the first time since their dismemberment, of the two Mellerio monuments, commissioned by Count Giacomo Mellerio in memory of his uncle Giovanni Battista and his wife Elisabetta Castelbarco, after visiting Canova’s Roman studio. The count was struck precisely by a funerary monument on which the artist was working and commissioned him to create the two funerary stelae, which Canova waited for from June 1812 to 1814, and which arrived in Gerno, at Villa “Gernetto” Mellerio in August 1814 to be placed in a chapel he had specially built. The two Canovian works were joined in 1825 by the monument that Giacomo Mellerio commissioned from sculptor Giuseppe De Fabris to commemorate his daughter Giovannina who died prematurely.

Between 1962, when they are still documented in situ, and 1975, when the “Gernetto” was purchased by Credito Italiano, the two stelae were removed from their original location. In 1978, blocked by the Soprintendenza ai Beni Storici e Artistici of Palermo as they were about to be exported to Germany, the two works were acquired by the Sicilian Region. Other paths, however, took the reliefs of De Fabris’s monument, now preserved in two different private collections and exceptionally and for the first time reassembled on the occasion of this exhibition.

Vittorio Sgarbi, president of Fondazione Canova onlus and the National Committee, noted, “Another is the villa il Gernetto, with its history, without the Mellerio mausoleum. Canova is the consecration of it. And he gives meaning to architecture in dialogue with sculpture, with a peculiar aesthetic and historical value. A milestone in the evolution of funerary monuments from the Renaissance to the Neoclassical period. The Mellerio stelae are history, and they make no sense in Palermo. The owner of the villa, Silvio Berlusconi, who envisioned a cultural prospect for the villa il Gernetto, has the right and the duty to claim, through the Superintendence and the judiciary, compensation for the original condition of the chapel.”

The exhibition, in addition to this extraordinary recomposition, will feature works from national and international public and private collections, divided into three sections: the first dedicated to the Mellerio stelae and the De Fabris monument, the second to Canova’s renewal of sepulchral representation, and the last tracing the tributes of many artists to Canova and his inventions. The exhibition will also feature previously unpublished Canova drawings, the Possagno Canova notebook displayed to the public for the first time after restoration by the Canova Museum, and drawings by Felice Giani and his circle, from the Prado Museum and exhibited here for the first time.

Museum director Moira Mascotto “This is an exhibition of great historical, artistic and cultural value,” says Moira Mascotto, director of the museum. “The numerous loans, combined with the Museum’s holdings, have made it possible to create an itinerary rich in interest and novelty. Among the many works on display, we find a nucleus of unpublished drawings from a private collection and given into the custody of the Museum for the next few years. The exhibition was also an opportunity to restore the two plaster models of the Mellerio Stelae and the Notebook of Drawings that belong to the Possagno collection.”

“The real cult paid to Canova by contemporaries,” says curator Stefano Grandesso, “is translated into a series of artistic tributes that are represented in the exhibition by exemplary works. In them, the repertoire of Canova’s inventions is continuously studied, reused and varied, reflecting also on the very role of sculpture, capable of eternalizing human memory in marble.”

“In Foscolian terms,” points out curator Francesco Leone, "with Canova the tomb was elevated to a place deputed to secular reflection on the mysteries of human existence and death. As poetry in Foscolo, so sculpture in Canova, with its harmony, became the pasture of memory, the witness that ’conquers silence by a thousand centuries.

The initiative will be accompanied by educational activities and events such as guided tours with the curators and thematic tours on the exhibition route every weekend. Of particular note are the collaborations, with the presence among the lenders also of the Prado Museum, one of the most prominent museum institutions internationally. In particular, the following have collaborated in various ways for the success of the initiative: National Committee for the Celebration of the Bicentenary of the Death of Antonio Canova; ABAP Superintendency for the metropolitan area of Venice and the provinces of Belluno, Padua and Treviso; Municipality of Possagno; Province of Treviso; Historical Archives and Civic Museums of Bassano del Grappa; Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the provinces of Como, Lecco, Monza-Brianza, Pavia, Sondrio and Varese; Sicilian Region; Prado Museum in Madrid.

Museum opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Last admission one hour before closing. Special openings on holidays (Easter Monday, April 25, May 1, June 2, August 15, November 1, December 26). For info visit the website of the Canova Museum in Possagno.

Pictured is a room of the exhibition.

Antonio Canova's Mellerio monuments reunited at the Canova Museum in Possagno
Antonio Canova's Mellerio monuments reunited at the Canova Museum in Possagno

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