Traditional ways of working get a technological boost in creation of a Memorial
By Sabin Howard
Several years ago, I was on a trip to Possagno in Italy, and we went to the Gipsoteca of the Italian Neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova. The museum contains his plaster models and shows his prowess at getting all the major commissions that Europe had to offer at the end of the 1700s and early part of the 1800s. He even made sculptures for America of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Canova drew his inspiration from the past, thinking about how he could play forward the rich tradition of Roman and Greek Sculpture in the present. His work also shows the first symptoms of the experimentation of the modern age.
To achieve this great task, he employed a workshop that helped him to achieve his artistic vision. He hired workers to transfer his plaster models to marble.
Using the latest technology of his time, he perfected a machine called a ‘pointing’ machine. He was able to work extremely quickly and accurately, using this cutting-edge technology. The machine revolutionized sculpture in the late 1700s. The measuring tool used by stone sculptors accurately copies plasters and allows artists to recreate their vision in stone.
I stayed at Canova’s museum/home for close to five hours and revisited it the next day. There was something there that I couldn’t put my finger on, something that I was supposed to take in. Something I was meant to take away with me and play forward.
I was amazed at how prolific he was. I sat in the Neoclassical room letting in this unreal world. The white sculptures are bathed in light that falls from above. There is such a sense of unending peacefulness, and I had the pervasive feeling that I was a visitor to a sacred space.
As my life progressed from that moment, I now know why I was meant to be there that afternoon.
What did I learn and how did I apply that lesson?
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