Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was an Italian Neoclassical sculpture, most famous for his marble sculpture The Three Graces (1814-15) that is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Often regarded as the greatest of the Neoclassical artists, his work was inspired by the Baroque and the classical revival, but ‘avoided the melodramatics of the former, and the cold artificiality of the latter’.

Before the age of ten Canova began making models in clay and carving marble and this piece, done when he was in his early twenties is thought to have been inspired by the face of one of the sons of Laocoön in the celebrated sculpture in the Vatican Museum. In 1770 he was apprenticed for two years to the great Venetian sculptor Giuseppe Bernardi. He then began his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia where he won many prizes. Among Canova’s other most notable works are: Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (1787) and Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker (1802-06).