What does Antonio Canova have to do with the Velvet Underground?

Recently, Antonio Canova's sculptures were used as the background of an advertisement. Kind of like what happened to Sunday Morning by the Velvet Underground!

What does the greatest interpreter in sculpture of neoclassicism, namely Antonio Canova, have to do with one of the most important (and probably the most influential) groups in rock history, namely the Velvet Underground? Apparently nothing: in fact, the common thread linking them is that of advertising, or rather that ofart used with little or no criteria in advertising, because Canova and the Velvet Underground have in common the fact that they are artists and that they are (or have been) the protagonists of commercials whose content has nothing to do with the message of which thework of art is the bearer.

Do you remember theENEL commercial that had Sunday morning as its background? The song accompanied some idyllic scenes from a hypothetical world where getting electricity is extremely easy (all you would have to do is draw or dig an outlet). The exact opposite of the contradictory Sunday morning, which despite the seemingly sweet melody is a song that tells us about restlessness, paranoia, and anxiety, although the lyrics lend themselves to several interpretations: however, this is the one that is the most popular, namely the one according to which it is a song about depression and paranoia. Evidently the creative person did not set out to understand the art of the Velvet Underground and consequently the message of the song.

I gave this example just because it is the first that came to mind, but there are many commercials where music is used without it having a connection to the advertising message. Here, our own Antonio Canova was the subject of such an operation, that is, he became the protagonist of an advertisement where his works simply serve as background music but have nothing to do with the content of the commercial. In this particular case, the neoclassical sculptor has become a “testimonial” for the Intimissimi brand: a photo shoot was filmed at the Gipsoteca Canoviana in Possagno, and for the past few days on television one can also see the commercial in which a model in underwear with a winking attitude wanders among the Canovian plaster casts. This is one of the images that can be seen on the Intimissimi website:

Intimissimi con Antonio Canova

It is not often that awork of art becomes the background of an advertisement, and so, in order to find out what art lovers think of the initiative, we tried to launch a little discussion both on our Facebook page and on the message boards of some groups, also on Facebook. We do not feel like sharing (indeed, we do not share) the thoughts of those who even find it “shameful” that the Possagno gipsoteca has been used as a set for an advertisement, but it certainly has to be said that here the artwork is exploited without any underlying logic.

Again, the creative has studied art history poorly: if he had studied it better (or if he had studied it at all... ), he would have discovered that the works of Antonio Canova (as well as those of all neoclassical artists) are not intended to be sensual, to provoke and inspire eroticism; in fact, the exact opposite is true. Neoclassicism was born as a reaction against the excesses of Baroque art, and these excesses included excessive eroticism: the aim of the neoclassicists was to create art where subjects were idealized, solemn, and rational. Ifemotion was the mood of Baroque art, contemplation is that of neoclassical art. Probably shooting the model next to a Bernini sculpture or a painting by Cagnacci, Rubens or Rembrandt, just to name a few famous names, would have made more sense.

Moreover, the model does not even parade near works with an amorous subject, which therefore, even admitting the creative’s lack of understanding of art history, might have provided a minimal foothold (albeit of no value to those familiar with neoclassical art): but, for example, in the photo we see that the girl is portrayed near the monument to George Washington! What connection could there be between the monument to George Washington and an underwear brand? And furthermore, the works of art are not even shot well, and the non-lover or non-knower is not given tools to understand whose works are whose or where they are. So, as a mere background (somewhat Sunday morning style), the advertisers could have used any work of art. We at Windows on Art are not, as a matter of principle, opposed to the use of artwork in advertising messages. But (and it would also apply to music) we would like that, if art must be used at all, at least it should be used sensibly and in a way that leaves open the possibility of bringing the recipients of the message closer to art!

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