In the present lot Pompeo Calvi, no doubt well-versed in the oeuvre and the artistic manner of the master sculptor, depicts the studio of Antonio Canova, whose working method and models for his most important works can be seen in the present composition. Canova, the central figure, is working on a large clay model placed in the foreground. The clay group is the preparatory model for part of the monumental tomb of the daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Duchess Maria Christina of Saxony-Teschen, executed 1798-1805 in carrara marble and placed in the Augustinians Church in Vienna (see fig 1). Canova often made his models in clay and then employed a number of workmen and pupils to carve his creation out of a block of marble.
Next to an artist's model who is casually studying a drawing in the foreground, a well-dressed figure, possibly a patron, can be seen critically eyeing the sculptor at work. At the end of the 18th century Canova was considered the most important sculptor of Europe and his atelier was a tourist attraction in Rome. People queued for admission to the studio, which was crammed with model statues and floors were lined by flakes of marble.
In the background of the present lot are other identifiable works such as a terracotta model for the famous Hercules and Lica, Venus Italica and a version of the Triumph of Perseus. Most notably, behind the clay model, a glimpse can be seen of Canova's most important work, Psyche revived by Cupid's kiss.