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Antonio Canova

Title:     Antonio Canova
Author: Anonymous [More Titles by Anonymous]

In the sunny land of Italy, in the obscure little village of Possagno near Venice, there once lived a little lad whose name was Antonio Canova. As he was left an orphan at three years old he dwelt with his grandfather, who earned his living by cutting figures and ornaments out of stone. The old man took the greatest care of his grandson and wished to train Antonio to become a stone-cutter too, so with this end in view the boy was taught drawing. He soon showed great talent, and when he began to model birds and flowers in clay, he succeeded so well that his grandfather was both astonished and delighted. Even in his ninth year he made two beautiful marble shrines which can be seen to this day.

One day a nobleman called Giovanni Falieri, who was about to give a large dinner party, asked old Canova to make him some ornament for the table. He said he did not care what it was, but wanted something new and uncommon. There was but little time before the date fixed for the party, and the old stone-cutter tried in vain to think of a suitable object. Seeing his grandfather so troubled, Antonio said to him, "I think I can make something to please his lordship. If you will let me have some good hard butter I will make him a butter lion."

"That is an excellent idea," replied the old man. And he sent for the butter at once.

Antonio set to work, and very soon he had shaped a lion's head, with fine flowing mane, out of the creamy mass. Then followed a beautifully formed body and limbs.

When the animal was complete his grandfather looked at it with intense pride and admiration, and it was carefully carried to his lordship. It attracted a great deal of attention at the dinner party, and amid cries of wonderment was passed from hand to hand. When the nobleman and his guests heard that it was the work of a boy, they expressed a great desire to see the talented young artist. Antonio was sent for, and his lordship was so impressed with his talent that he promised to see that he had the best masters, and that he was given every chance to succeed in his profession.

Giovanni Falieri nobly kept his word, and placed him as a pupil under Bernardi, or as he is usually called Torretti, a famous Venetian sculptor, who happened to be staying in a neighbouring village at the time. By the aid of this kind friend, and the power of his own genius, Antonio became a world-renowned sculptor. And not only was he a famous sculptor, but he was even entrusted with great affairs of state.

When the great Napoleon conquered Italy he carried off most unjustly hundreds of priceless works of art, and when the tyrant was overthrown the young Canova was sent as ambassador to Paris to find the whereabouts of these works. For these and other services he was made by the Pope Marquis of Ischia, and given a pension of 3000 scudi. But Canova was very good and generous and he devoted all this pension for the relief of his poor brother artists. Thus the little figure of the butter lion proved to be the stepping-stone to fame.

[The end]
Anonymous's short story: Antonio Canova