Giorgio Washington
Canova: Early 19th Century

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George Washington -- To the Great Nation of the United States of America detail
Antonio Canova (1757-1822) (sculptor)
G. Tognoli (print artist)
Ang. Bertini (engraver)
Giorgio Washington -- Alla grande Nazione degli Stati Uniti America [George Washington -- To the Great Nation of the United States of America]
Rome: Early 19th Century
24 x 18.5 inches, sheet
18 x 13 inches, plate mark
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Engraving printed in Rome and inscribed in Italian, of a neoclassical statue of George Washington, with the muscular physique and costume of a Roman general, complete with sandals and short, curly hair. Italian Antonio Canova, then considered one of the best sculptors in the world, produced the original sculpture, which was commissioned for the North Carolina State Capitol Building in Raleigh for $10,000. The statue was placed in the building's rotunda in 1821, but was destroyed in a fire about 10 years later. While the statue initially had its detractors who maintained that Washington should have been portrayed in a more naturalistic fashion in his own uniform, by the time of the fire it had become a source of pride for the citizens of the state, and plans were made to recreate it. That did not occur until 1970, when a copy was made and once again placed in the Rotunda, where it stands today. The engraving was printed in Rome and inscribed in Italian.

In the early 19th century, Washington was frequently depicted in the neoclassical manner, dressed as a Greek or Roman statesman or posed in a toga like a classical statue of Zeus. These depictions symbolically linked the relatively new American republic and its leaders to the tradition of the great democracies of ancient Greek and Rome. It also was typical of the time that the commission for an important public building was given to a European sculptor. Beginning in the 1830s, it became more common for American artists to receive such commissions.

Antonio Canova is considered one of the greatest sculptors of the neo-classical era. He was active in the reclaiming of Italian and Papal works of art looted by the French in the Napoleonic wars, which won him the title of Marchese d'Ischia. Many of his sculptures were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman works of art and executed as commissions for Country House owners in Europe and Great Britian. He also issued a large series of prints of his famous works and inspirations.

Legend Lower Left: "Statua in marmo alquanto maggiore del naturale, destinata ad esser posta nella Sala del Senate di Carolina in America." [Statue in marble somewhat larger than life-size, destined to be placed in the Room of the Senate of Carolina in America.]

Inscription on Tablet Washington is Holding: "Giorgio Washington Al Popolo degli Stati Uniti 1796 Amici e Concittadini." [George Washington to the People of the United States 1796, Friends and Fellow Citizens.]


Benson, Karlyn. "Hiram Powers, George Washington: About the Artist." (27 June 2002).

Pavanello, G. L'Opera Completa del Canova. Milano, 1976.

"Photo 4: Statue of George Washington in North Carolina State Capitol." ParkNet, National Park Service. 3 July 2001. (27 June 2002).

"Rotunda." North Carolina Virtual Visits. 14 May 2001. (27 June 2002).

Sonego, Giovanni. "A sculpture for everyone in Possagno." italiaplease MEGAzine. May 2001. (27 June 2002).

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