Antonio Canova is one of the most important Italian sculptors of all time. His marble statues are characterized by classical beauty and they are now on display in the most important museums in the world.
Canova’s Perseus had not been commissioned by anyone, thus he put it up for sale. Giuseppe Bossi, secretary of the Academy of Brera, and personal friend of the sculptor wanted to place the Perseus in the Foro Bonaparte and he had already begun the payments when a letter came from Cardinal Doria informing Canova that Pope Pius VII wanted to buy the sculpture for 3,000 gold coins in order to place it in the Vatican Museum. Thus, the Perseus was moved to the Vatican and was placed on the empty pedestal of the famous Apollo Belvedere which had previously been moved to Paris by the French, following the Treaty of Tolentino.
The imposing statue depicts the hero of Greek mythology Perseus, son of Zeus and Danaë, with the helmet of Pluto (which had the power of invisibility), the winged sandals of Mercury and the diamond sword given to him by Vulcan. These gifts were granted to Perseus in order to allow the hero to defeat Medusa, against whom he was sent by Polykleitos, king of the island of Serifos.
Canova represented the Perseus triumphantly raising his left arm with the head of Medusa. The excitement of the action is frozen as is customary of the classical style. The Argive hero has similar proportions and positioning to the Apollo Belvedere.
The restoration process included documentation with a 3D laser scanner, analytic and stratigraphic analysis, surface cleaning, nail removal and replacement, recreation of the pedestal, and more.