Canova Antonio, The Charity
works associated

1,792; plaster
cm. 122 x 135

Inventory: BD00130AFC
Exibition: 1999, Monza, n. 53; 2002, Milano, Palazzo Reale, n. XV. 14; 2019-2020, Milano, n. XVII.3

Abbondio Rezzonico, senator of Rome and the city’s supreme administrative authority, built up a collection of thirteen plaster reliefs by Antonio Canova in his villa at Bassano del Grappa between 1793 and 1795. The works were placed in the main hall against a white background accompanied by celebratory inscription. The complete series was then sold by heirs between 1833 and 1837 to the lawyer Antonio Piazza, who used it as a frieze in a specifically prepared and decorated room of his mansion on Via del Santo in Padua. The building finally came into the hands of the counts of San Bonifacio, the last owners of the works.

Abbondio’s purchase of the plaster reliefs confirmed the close relations developed between the artist and the noble family of Venetian origin, which had an important precedent in the commission from his elder brother Lodovico for six statues on mythological subjects for his mansion in Bassano. While this was never carried out, the subsequent meeting with Abbondio in December 1779, shortly after Canova’s arrival in Rome from Venice, marked the birth of a relationship that was to play a major role in the sculptor’s career. It commenced with the assignment to produce a statuette of Apollo Crowning Himself (Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum) in competition with a Peaceful Minerva (location unknown) by Giuseppe Angelini, a sculptor of fairly good reputation already linked to the Rezzonico family’s entourage. The success of Canova’s work, a programmatic image of the classical ideal, paved the way for the prestigious commission for the Monument to Clement XIII, Abbondio’s uncle.

The execution and visual fortunes of the work were connected with the creation of the three plaster reliefs of Charity, Justice and Hope, the first of the series to enter the collection in Bassano in 1793. Completed in 1785 and approved by the client’s group of illustrious advisers, including the much heeded Scottish painter Gavin Hamilton, the definitive model for the monument envisaged a sarcophagus on a tall base with the reclining figure of the pope on top, flanked by Religion and the Funerary Genius, and completed by two bas-reliefs of the juxtaposed theological virtues Hope, with the traditional symbols of the anchor and the floral crown, and Charity, with her hands on her breast.

Abbondio Rezzonico also secured possession of the casts of the most important figural parts of the monument together with the two plaster reliefs of Hope and Charity and the original model of Justice, produced in 1793, immediately after completion of the tomb and never translated into marble. Justice remained in the senator’s possession as a unique piece and therefore with the value of an original work specifically produced by the sculptor for his patron and distinguished by careful, flowing modelling of very high quality.

From November 2011, the work has been on view at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.


Giuseppe Pavanello, Antonio Canova: i gessi “Rezzonico”, in “Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova”, LXXIII, Padova, 1984, pp. 145-162;
Fernando Mazzocca, I bassorilievi di Antonio Canova, in “Ca de Sass”, 119, Cariplo, Milano, Settembre 1992, pp. 20-26;
Fernando Mazzocca, Antonio Canova e i bassorilievi della collezione Rezzonico, Cariplo, Milano, 1993, (con bibliografia precedente);
Grazia Bernini Pezzini e Fabio Fiorani, a cura di, Canova e l’incisione, catalogo della mostra, Roma, Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, 11 novembre 1993 – 6 gennaio 1994, Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico, 19 gennaio – 24 aprile 1994, Ghedina e Tassotti, Bassano del Grappa, 1993;
Andrea Spiriti, Antonio Canova, in Maria Luisa Gatti Perer, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. Dal Classico al Neoclassico, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Editore, 1998, nn. 44-56, pp. 140-154;
M. Guderzo, I Bassorilievi Cariplo, in Renato Barillli, a cura di, Canova e Appiani alle origini della contemporaneità, catalogo della mostra, Monza, Serrone della Villa Reale, 30 aprile - 25 luglio 1999, Mazzotta, Milano 1999, pp. 111-113;
Fernando Mazzocca, Il Neoclassicismo in Italia. Da Tiepolo a Canova, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Palazzo Reale, 2 marzo – 28 luglio 2002, Skira Artificio, Milano, 2002, nn. XV.12-XV.24, pp. 518-520;
Pietro Giordani - Antonio Canova - Giovanni Battista Sartori. Carteggio con la riproduzione di 85 incisioni canoviane, Edizione critica a cura di Matteo Ceppi e Claudio Giambonini, TiPleCo, Piacenza, 2005;
Enrico Noè, Abbondio Rezzonico committente del Canova, in Giuliana Ericani - Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, VI settimana di studi canoviani, Istituto di ricerca per gli studi su Canova e il Neoclassicismo, Bassano del Grappa, 2008, pp. 69-84;
Elena Lissoni, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo, Skira, Milano, 2011, nn. I. 1-13, pp. 179-181, ill.;
Stefano Grandesso e Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Canova Thorvaldsen. La nascita della scultura moderna, catalogo della mostra, Milano, Gallerie d'Italia, 25 ottobre 2019 - 15 marzo 2020, Skira - Gallerie d'Italia, Milano, 2019, n. XVII.3, p. 389;
Marco Bona Castellotti, Breve itinerario tra le opere d'arte della Cariplo, in "La Ca' de Sass", numero speciale, Cariplo, Milano, s.d., pp. 10-13

Elena Lissoni
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