Displayed in the Assembly Room, the Venus Italica is one of Hearst Castle’s greatest masterpieces. The composition was created by Antonio Canova (1757-1822) to replace an ancient Greek statue in Florence, Italy, which was seized for France in 1802 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion. Canova, unwilling to do nothing more than carve a copy, instead invented a new figure, called the “Italian” Venus to distinguish it from the Greek sculpture. Its delicate beauty brought more requests to Canova for additional examples. A sophisticated Russian aristocrat wanted one, but he never finalized the purchase. Instead, Napoleon’s brother bought the statue, which was soon sold to the marquess of Lansdowne, a renowned English collector. When the Lansdowne collection was auctioned in 1930, Hearst acquired the statue and several of Lansdowne’s ancient Roman sculptures. Late in his life, Hearst donated those to the Los Angeles County Museum, but the exquisite Venus Italica remained in the Assembly Room.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 Tweet