"I'm a great admirer of Canova's work; he had such an amazing ability to carve soft and silken skin out of a hard and unyielding material. This piece shows true respect and love of the female form; one that I find highly inspirational in my own work."
The Three Graces illustrates Canova's outstanding ability to transform cold hard marble into soft lustrous skin. According to Greek mythology the three daughters of Zeus and Euryoneme were called Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia. They were traditionally associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Canova arranged the beautiful sisters in a loose semi-circle so that they complement one another in their poses and gazes, entwined arms and narrow swathes of drapery. The sculpture was commissioned by the 6th Duke of Bedford and installed on a pedestal (which could be rotated) in a specially built Temple at his country house, Woburn Abbey.
Canova, who was based in Rome, was one of the most famous artists in eighteenth-century Europe . His sculpture was celebrated for its classical character and convincing lifelike qualities. Canova successfully emulated and, in the view of some contemporaries, even surpassed sculptors of Antiquity and more recent times, such as Michelangelo and Bernini. He was also inspired by painters, especially those from Venice, near his birthplace, Possagno. In 1801 he was knighted by the Pope and in 1814 honoured with the title of Perpetual President of the Academy of St Luke. His work attracted distinguished patrons from all over Europe, including Britain.