View full screen - View 1 of Lot 88. After Antonio Canova (1757-1822) | Italian, circa 1830 | Pair of Busts of Paris and Helen.

After Antonio Canova (1757-1822) | Italian, circa 1830 | Pair of Busts of Paris and Helen

After Antonio Canova (1757-1822) | Italian, circa 1830 | Pair of Busts of Paris and Helen

After Antonio Canova (1757-1822) | Italian, circa 1830 | Pair of Busts of Paris and Helen

After Antonio Canova (1757-1822)

Italian, circa 1830

Pair of Busts of Paris and Helen

white marble, on serpentine and black marble socles, and serpentine and white marble columns

the Paris bust with two labels inscribed: 5185; one of the columns with a label inscribed: 35

busts and socles: 71cm., 28in. and 65cm., 25½in.

columns: 120cm., 47in.

Overall the busts are in very good condition with some surface dirt and wear consistent with age. There is light surface dirt to the busts, in particular in the crevices of the hair, and they may benefit from professional cleaning. There is what appears to be yellowed wax or lacquer in the crevices of Helen’s hair. There is a small loss to the edge of the band on Paris’s cap on his proper left side. There are some further chips and minor losses, notably to locks of Paris’s hair on his proper left side. Some very small chips and abrasions to the edges of the truncations of both busts. There are a few small natural inclusions (with fill), in particular to the Paris bust. Some very minor natural veining in the marbles, including a hairline vein to Paris’s chest. There is some illegible pencil writing to the backs of both busts. 

The socles and columns are in good condition with some dirt and wear consistent with age and several small chips. One of the columns has recently been reattached to its base, and may need further consolidation in the future. 

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

These impressive busts follow the celebrated models by the great Italian Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova. The quality of the carving of the present busts is high and, together with their beautiful surface polish, indicates that the busts were executed in the 1820s or 1830s, shortly after Canova’s death. Rome was an important centre of marble carving during this period, with Thorvaldsen’s studio being a magnet for talented carvers, many of whom would become significant sculptors in their own right. The present busts are quintessential Canova models, and are arguably close to the sculptors workshop output.

The prime version of Canova’s Helen was executed in 1811 and gifted by the sculptor to his friend and biographer Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi (it remains in the Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice). Further versions exist at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland, and in the Victoria and Albert Museum.


The bust is the first of the sculptor’s famous Testi ideali (Ideal Heads). Canova’s Ideal Heads enshrine the sculptor’s idea of facial perfection. Informed by nature, they are removed from the idiosyncrasies of portraiture and guided by Classical principles. Carved in a state of amore caldissimo, the Ideal Heads transcend the corporeal and present a vision of universal beauty inspired by Canova’s unique genius.

Canova’s Helen was subject of Byron’s poem ‘On the Bust of Helen by Canova’:

'In this beloved marble view

Above the works and thoughts of Man,

What Nature could but would not, do,

And Beauty and Canova can!

Beyond Imagination’s power,

Beyond the Bard’s defeated art,

With Immortality her dower,

Behold the Helen of the heart'.

The Paris was first conceived in 1809. The prime version, which was originally gifted by Canova to Antoine Quatremère de Quincy, is in the Art Institute of Chicago. It derives from the full length statue made for Empress Josephine of France in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.


I. Wardropper, and T.F. Rowlands, ‘Antonio Canova and Quatremère de Quincy: The gift of friendship’. Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 1989, pp. 39-86; G. Cunial and M. Pavan, Antonio Canova: Museum and Gipsoteca, Museo e Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, 2011, pp. 140-145; K. Eustace, Canova: Ideal Heads; [published by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford to Coincide with the Exhibition of Ideal Heads in the Chambers Hall Gallery, Ashmolean Museum 11 July-14 September 1997]. Ashmolean Museum, 1997, pp. 84-85.