Lost Masterpiece by Antonio Canova Appears at Auction

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Lost Masterpiece by Antonio Canova Appears at Auction

Now, on 4 July in London, Sotheby’s will offer one of the few autograph works by Canova ever to come to auction. Long thought lost, the Bust of Peace has not been seen in public for over 200 years since it was shown for the first time at the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1817.

The artist behind one of the most celebrated sculptures in Britain, The Three Graces, Antonio Canova (1757-1821) is as revered today as he was during his lifetime. Honoured in verse by Lord Byron, Canova was considered the preeminent sculptor of his time, recognised not only for his skills as a carver, but also as a diplomat and dignitary for the Papal court.

Now, on 4 July in London, Sotheby’s will offer one of the few autograph works by Canova ever to come to auction. Long thought lost, the Bust of Peace has not been seen in public for over 200 years since it was shown for the first time at the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1817.

The sculpture belongs to Canova’s celebrated series of Ideal Heads (Teste Ideale). Considered among the artist’s most intimate works, the Ideal Heads embody Canova’s ideal of beauty, and were developed with the express purpose of gifting them to friends and patrons. The Bust of Peace (1814) was carved for his first British patron and close friend John Campbell, Lord Cawdor, in thanks for his long term patronage and friendship, and in part for his help in repatriating art from Italy looted by the French armies during the Napoleonic Wars.

Having been passed down through five generations of the Cawdor family following John Campbell’s death in 1821, the sculpture was forgotten over time. By 1962, when the contents of the family house Stackpole Court in Pembrokeshire were sold at auction, the Bust of Peace was simply described in the catalogue as ‘a white marble bust of a lady wearing a diadem’. 

Now, following extensive research by the present owner, who acquired the sculpture as an unattributed work, the bust has been identified as the long-lost Bust of Peace by Canova. The masterful work is a significant rediscovery, of seminal importance within Canova’s oeuvre, and has great historical resonance. 

Christopher Mason, Director, Sotheby’s European Sculpture & Works of Art Department: “Autograph Canova marbles are exceptionally rare on the art market. Consequently, estimating the value of such a sculpture is not an exact science. We envisage bidding in excess of £1 million. The last Canova bust to appear on the market, the ‘Bust of Murat’, in November 2017 sold for sold at auction for EUR 4.3 million. The Bust of Peace has matchless provenance dating back all the way to its conception in 1814, and so we expect a great deal of excitement.”

Sotheby’s London, 4 July 2018. Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Bust of Peace. White marble.

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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie‐Thérèse), executed 4 December 1937. Oil on canvas. 24⅛ x 18⅛ in (61.2 x 46.1 cm)

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