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Venus Victorious - Poem by gershon hepner

Happy and glorious,
Venus Victorious
inspires this man of a
nature aesthetic
to praises poetic
of Antony Canova.

Paolina the model
I wish I could coddle,
and cheer for Borgheses
who, naked on couches,
ignore all the grouches
who give them no praises.

Roderick Conway Morris writes about an exhibitions of the works of Canova in Rome (“Rome Enjoys Two Gathering of Masterworks, by Canova and Bernini, ” NYT, January 8,1008) :
Nearly four years in the making, “Venus Victorious, ” Canova’s seminude, life-size statue of Napoleon’s sister Paolina Borghese Bonaparte, was ready to be unveiled in that sculptor’s studio in Rome in July 1808. At the same time, the first of two huge convoys of wagons was leaving for Paris, carrying more than 500 of the Borgheses’ sculptures, bas-reliefs and other finds. This was to form the basis of the Louvre’s Greco-Roman gallery and constituted almost the entire Borghese collection of antiquities, sold to Napoleon by Paolina’s husband, the already immensely wealthy Camillo Borghese. On meeting Napoleon two years later at Fontainebleau, Canova himself did not hesitate to denounce to his face the sale of what he called “the most beautiful private collection in the world, ” telling Napoleon, “That family will be dishonored as long as history is written! ” Meanwhile, the “Venus Victorious” enjoyed a succès de scandale from its very first showing and became one of the prime attractions at the Borghese Gallery here, which then as now had one of the world’s finest collections of old master paintings and Baroque sculptures. The statue is the centerpiece of “Canova and the Venus Victorious, ” the second of a series of special exhibitions at the gallery; Anna Coliva and Fernando Mazzocca are curators. Almost 50 more Canova sculptures of female and male nudes, other portraits of sitters in classical guise, paintings, drawings and clay models have been lent from around the world.
The “Venus Victorious” was commissioned before the passionate relationship between Camillo and Paolina, who were married in 1803, rapidly cooled. Reclining on a couch, she holds the apple awarded to Venus by Paris when he judged her to be more beautiful than her rivals. The Borghese family claimed descent from Aeneas, son of Venus. Thus the choice of personification flattered not only Paolina, but also the dynasty. Canova had the satisfaction of hearing that some of his own works, sent to France with the antiquities, were, in the confusion on their arrival at the Louvre, mistaken for genuine classical statuary. Their display at the Salon of 1808 confirmed his position as the most famous artist in Europe. This sculptor undoubtedly regretted that his “Venus” was not also shown there, as did Paolina. But Camillo Borghese was determined to hang on to it, particularly in the extended absence of its flesh-and-blood model. Napoleon, too, seems to have been ambivalent about the prospect of the exposure of the statue in the capital, given his sister’s reputation as a loose cannon.Aside from the work’s obvious artistic merits, Paolina’s notorious promiscuity added spice to the statue’s appeal. (Canova initially considered posing the newlywed Paolina as Diana, goddess of chastity, but wisely thought better of it.) And in Italy Camillo partly salvaged his tarnished reputation after the sale of the Borghese antiquities by consistently refusing to let the “Venus Victorious” go to France. The work’s scandalous associations were making it a juicy subject for Roman gossip: A favorite story had a lady friend of Paolina asking if she had felt uncomfortable posing virtually in the nude. Her reply was worthy of Mae West: “Why should I? The studio is heated.”


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Poems About Paris

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