The Wounded Art

The birthplace of Antonio Canova where is located the house and today also his grave, is located in a wrong place. Italy north east, at the foot of the Monte Grappa and very close to the Piave and Brenta rivers, just where the Italian troops seized after the battle of Caporetto during the First World War in 1917. There, the austrian offensive made no distinctions, nothing and nobody could be saved. Among the countless victims in battle, the fallen civilians, entire villages were destroyed by bombs, and among these also the hamlet of the artist. Included, in destruction work of austrian, we must also count monuments and churches and not least the gypsotheca of Antonio Canova in Possagno, the small village near Bassano. The gypsotheca, which was built in 1836 by the architect Francesco Lazzari on commission by Monsignor Sartori brother in law of Antonio, was full of very fine sculptures and wonderful plasters by the genious of neoclassical art.

Beautiful monumental statues, precious plaster cast, large statues and small figures were completely destroyed or partially damaged. Probably it was on December 24th of 1917 when a large-caliber grenade hit the great Galleria dei Gessi, broke through the roof on various areas and the rubble and debris struck many works of art.

It was an unprecedented disaster, from which the Museum has never completely recovered. Even today, who visiting the Gypsotheca meet the dramatic testimonies of the lacerations in some statues. In those days the grenades fell to tens every day in that area of Italy. The civilian population had been evicted, first to Ca ‘Rainati and then to Marsala in Sicily. The French troops who had been charged with presiding over the territory had taken possession of the emptied houses and the Museum.

The scene that saw the eyes of the people present in the next hours was chilling. It was a tragic Christmas, which would have remained in the memory of the inhabitants of the place and of all the admirers and lovers of Canova and his marvelous work.

During the following months the work and the passion of the Stefano Serafin with his son Siro, was fundamental for the recovery of the works. He accomplished a photographic campaign and then, meticulously, began to restore with care and attention everything that could return to its initial splendor. Serafin did an extraordinary work, considering that his experience was not like that of a professional and the limited means at his disposal.