Antonio Canova, Italian, 1757-1822
Title: Amorino
Date: 1789-1791
Medium: Marble
141 x 53.5 x 50 cm
Credit Line: Heritage Gift, Bank of Ireland, 1998
Object Number: NGI.8358
DescriptionCupid is shown in a less familiar guise as a young man, a bow by his side. His pose, with his weight resting on one leg and his hand raised, is influenced by the antique statue of Doryphorus. It is an image of perfect beauty in the smooth surfaces of the body and delicately observed profile, which contrasts with the freer handling of the hair and tree stump. The work was commissioned from Canova in 1789 by John La Touche (1772-1838), the 17-year-old son of Ireland’s wealthiest banker, when he visited the artist’s studio in Rome. Within two years the marble was finished and dispatched to Dublin. With the assistance of the artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton it was set up in the back parlour of the family home on Harcourt Street. Having received £275 in payment, Canova wrote to Hamilton two years later for help in obtaining the £25 owed for a marble pedestal, which is now lost. The Amorino itself ended up in a Welsh garden.
The sculptor carved four similar versions of the Amorino, modifying and perfecting as he progressed, but the present one, the third, is considered the most accomplished. He learnt the rudiments of carving from his grandfather and his precocious talent was first discovered by an aristocrat, Giovanni Falier, who became his patron. In 1781 Canova settled in Rome and his fame grew rapidly, his studio became a meeting point for intellectuals, collectors and foreign tourists.

March 2016

ProvenanceCommissioned by David La Touche, Dublin, after he saw the Amorino made for Campbell, in Rome, 1789; by descent in the family who moved to Wales; and the sculpture ended up in a garden in the West Country of England; found in 1992; sold at auction 1996; Bank of Ireland; Heritage Gift, Bank of Ireland, 1998
Exhibition HistoryCanova e la Venere Vincitrice, Galleria Borghese, Rome, 18 October 2007 - 10 February 2008
Label TextThis sculpture presents Cupid in the guise of a young man. It was commissioned by seventeen-year-old John La Touche, son of a wealthy Dublin banker, following a visit to Canova’s studio in Rome. It is the third version of the figure, considered by many to be the finest. The smoothness of the body is contrasted with the sharp profile of the face and more naturalistic handling of hair and tree stump. The pose was borrowed and modified by Canova from an antique Greek statue of Doryphoros.