Antonio Canova, Self-Portrait, 1792
Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was a very successful Italian sculptor and occasional painter. He is known for a revival of the understated Classical style after the elaborate decadence of Baroque sculpture. Among his best known pieces are Perseus with the Head of Medusa and Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss. In many ways this painting is a simple portrait; it is beautifully rendered with precise, expressive brushstrokes, and the subject is bathed in warm, pleasant light. To me what makes the piece so arresting is the engagement of Canova. He depicts himself at work, with his hand raised to his art. Even more essential is the artist's gaze. His eyes are alive and alight, conveying an intense energy as he looks out to meet the viewer's gaze and invite them into his art. Canova's skill and dedication make this an exquisite portrait, and his passion and engagement make it a captivating and expressive artwork.