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By Frilli, Antonio (Italian, died 1902)
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The sculpture of white marble, on a revolving serpentine marble base, signed, 'A. FRILLI / FIRENZE'; after a design by Antonio Canova
Marble height 173cm, width 116cm, depth 50cm
Base height 87.5cm, width 98cm
This marble replicates the central group from Venus and the Graces Dancing in the Presence of Mars by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). The great Neoclassical artist first produced this composition in tempera on paper and in sculptural relief. Canova conceived the image between 1794 and 1799 and it is not known whether the painting or the relief was the primary version. Both works are now in the Canova Museum in Possagno, Italy.
Both sculptural relief and tempera work depict the same composition, showing the three daughters of Zeus and Euryonome: Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia, dancing with Venus before Mars. Aglaia plays music on her lyre, to which all four women dance. Her two sisters delicately balance a crown of flowers above Venus’s head. While Mars is entranced by the beautiful sight, a mischievous putto steals away his sword. Although this adornment of Venus is described in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite and in Ovid’s Fasti, no ancient Classical image of the subject is known. Without antique prototype, Canova thus drew upon his imaginative vision and his love of Classical mythology.
The composition was designed for Canova’s own interest: only a few plaster casts of the relief were produced for particular friends and patrons.
Antonio Frilli, who was active in the late 19th Century, was a huge admirer of Canova’s and sought to emulate his exquisite style. Frilli soon established himself as a highly skilled marble sculptor and in1860 he founded the Galleria Frilli in Florence. Here Frilli crafted refined painted alabasters and large white Carrara marble statues for private villas and monumental cemeteries. Frilli specialised in decorative busts and figures in the Neoclassical style, which he crafted with extraordinary technical accomplishment. The Galleria Frilli became well-known across the world, and still exists in Florence today.
There is only one other known marble version of this model with similar dimensions, which is in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (inventory number LH2001.227). It is by Bertel Thorvaldsen (Danish, 1770-1844) and was a given to the museum together with many other items by the children of the businessman and industrialist from Indianapolis, Josiah Kirby "Joe" Lilly Jr. (American, 1893-1966)
H. Honour, “Canova’s Three Graces” T. Clidord et al, The Three Graces, Antonio Canova, exhib. cat., National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1995, pp. 19-45
A. Panzetta, Nuovo Dizionario degli Scultori Italiani, Turin, 2003, p. 377
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