|IMPORTANT LIFE-SIZE TERRACOTTA STATUE: THE SECOND BALLERINA, BY ANTONIO CANOVA (1809)
Antonio Canova, b. 1757, Possagno, d. 1822, Venezia
A fully-realized life-size sculpture by the 19th Century master. The ballerina coyly glances to her right, resting her chin on her right index finger as she gently raises her right leg in dance. Her left arm is akimbo with a floral wreath at her wrist. Classically attired in a sheer and flowing garment, her hair pulled back into an elaborate double-knot, her face framed by loose curls. Very rare.
H. 66 in. (167.7 cm.)
Originally in the possession of a Princely Polish family; acquired from Poland prior to World War II by John N. Willys, American Ambassador to Poland and former President of the Willys-Overland Company, and sold after his death in the estate of his wife, Isabel Van Wie Willys at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, on 26-27 October 1947; purchased by the Casa Ordaz in Coyocan, Mexico, and published in their catalogue in 1947 (Catalago Casa Ordaz, Casa de Diego Ordaz, Coyocan, Mexico, 1947, pp. 103-104, fig. 220). It was then purchased in Mexico in 1977 by Edward R. Lubin for the Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, and subsequently sold in 1980 to John Kluge of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Palm Beach, Florida. It was reacquired by Royal-Athena Galleries in 2008.
Cf. A. Canova, “Ballerina con un Ditto sul Mento”, (1809-1822) marble, National Gallery, Washington DC.
THE SECOND BALLERINA (Danzatrice)
by Antonio Canova (1757-1822), 1809.
Terracotta, height 5 feet, 6 inches (167.7 cm)
This life-size sculpture is the terracotta version made just subsequent to the original plaster model of 1809 now in the Museo Gipsoteca dello scultore Antonio Canova in Passagno, Italy (cf. Elenna Bassi, Antonio Canova a Possagno, Treviso, 1972, no. 196, pp. 80, 82) and prior to the marble version of 1810 in the Palazzo Corsini in Rome (cf. Alvar Gonzales-Palacios, Antonio Canova, Milan, 1966, pl. VII, and Elenna Bassi, Antonio Canova, Milan, 1966, pl. XXXVIII).
As is usual with Canova’s female figures they possess more vitality and surface ‘life’ than his male sculptures (i.e. the world-famous Pauline Bonaparte in the Borghese Gallery, Rome), as well as a suggestion of the oncoming Romanticism of the later part of the century. The remarkable detail of this sculpture illustrates the complete hand of this master sculptor himself. It is only in the terracotta’s that we see the full power of Canova’s work, for they were executed solely by Canova, unlike the marble sculptures, which were carried out in his workshop with the assistance of others.
A plaster or gesso copy was made of the original terracotta. Traces of plaster still remain on our statue, as was pointed out to us by a curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979. The copy was used to create the marble sculpture which was essentially a copy of the original terracotta.
Due to the nature of the material, the marbles lose much of the delicacy of detail and warmth of the original.
Large antique terracottas are quite rare, especially the works of major artists. We do not know of any other life-size sculptures in terracotta by Canova in the United States. The marble Perseus by Canova, prominently displayed at the head of the steps in the main foyer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the only large sculpture by this artist in the United States and was acquired in 1967.
It is in all probability ‘unique’ marketwise in that no more life-size works by this great Neo-Classic sculptor are likely to be available for acquisition. No other terracotta sculptures, except for small reliefs, have been offered at auction for at least 15 years and no other original life-size terracotta sculptures in any past auction records. The only life-size work in marble offered in auction in the past 70 years was a much decayed and restored statue of an adolescent nude male from an English country-house garden, unsold at Sotheby’s London in July 1996.
A thermoluminescence test made in June 2009 confirmed the authenticity of the sculpture dating it to 220 +/- 40 years (between 1750 and 1830 AD).