Canova's plaster casts in Massa? If only!

A reflection on the provocation of the vice president of the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara: bringing Canova's plaster casts to Massa

Speaking in a broadcast (“Visitors”) on a broadcaster in the province of Massa and Carrara, TT News, the vice president (as well as former director) of theAcademy of Fine Arts of Carrara Marco Baudinelli, as we read in yesterday’s Tirreno newspaper on Sunday, February 3,1 launched a provocation: to bring the Academy’s plaster cast collection to Massa. It is a collection of about two hundred pieces, with plaster casts by very important authors: the names of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen stand out, in addition to the local Benedetto Cacciatori, Pietro Tenerani and Carlo Finelli... and that’s just to name a few. In particular, I would like to emphasize the importance of the two plaster casts by Carlo Finelli: they are the only two surviving plaster casts of the artist’s production, who expressly stated in his will that what was left of his plaster casts should be destroyed. Two of them have been saved, preserved precisely in the collections of the Academy.

Many of these plaster casts are now under restoration, and the problem is to find a home for them when the restoration is finished. To my recollection, there has been discussion in Carrara for several years about these plaster casts and their possible placement: as early as 2006 there was talk (as in yesterday’s article!) of trying to display the plaster casts in the museum area of theformer convent of San Francesco, which now houses contemporary art exhibitions2. It is also worth mentioning that this collection has never known a museum venue that could have granted their use to the general public. This is a collection of the highest historical, artistic and cultural value, which has therefore for years been removed from the enjoyment of the city and the entire world.

The collection returned to the “limelight” with the two exhibitions organized in 2011 and 2012(D’après Canova. The Nineteenth Century in Carrara. L’Accademia e i suoi maestri and Il tempo di Elisa), which had the merit of attracting, yes, a few visitors, but as with any exhibition, the relapses were momentary: for a lasting revitalization of the city of Carrara, a cultural programming is needed that places precisely the Accademia’s plaster collection at the center. A cultural programming that, however, I currently do not seem to see, nor does it seem to arouse interest in the city. Suffice it to say that we are already in 2013 and not only is a serious program for the establishment of the gipsoteca still missing, but we are still discussing where to place the plaster casts.

So to Baudinelli’s provocation I add another: maybe the plaster casts of Canova (and all the other artists) would be moved to Massa! They would probably have better and more effective ideas in Massa on how to enhance this incredible heritage that we in Carrara fail to bring out. Or must art and its valorization be subject to parochialism? What is needed in Carrara is what has been lacking up to now, namely a more serious, stable and lasting cultural policy, a cultural policy that does not focus only on a few events, perhaps of media appeal, but a cultural policy made up of programming, which aims to give value to what is already in the city’s possession but has so far, as reiterated, been taken away from the full availability of citizens and visitors.


1. Alessandra Vivoli, The plaster casts of Canova? Let’s bring them to Massa, from Il Tirreno, February 3, 2013.

2. I managed to find on the web an article, precisely from 2006, in which these topics were already discussed: Carrara, marble and art. Negative balance sheet, from Il Tirreno, April 29, 2006

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