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    Antonio Canova (Possagno 1757-1822 Venice) – Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene) marble, 1819-1822. UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    Antonio Canova’s (1757-1822) Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene) 1819-1822, the Italian titan’s lost masterpiece completed shortly before his death, will be a highlight at Christie’s during Classic Week in London this summer. The sculpture of Mary Magdalene in a state of ecstasy was commissioned by the Prime Minister of the day, Lord Liverpool (1812-1827). Scholars have searched for the work for decades. In November 1819 Thomas Moore, the Irish poet and lyricist, recorded that Canova: “took me to see his last Magdalen, which is divine: she is lying recumbent in all the abandonment of grief; and the expression on her face and the beauty of her figure … are perfection”. The sculpture passed to Lord Liverpool’s brother and after his death it came up at Christie’s in 1852. It was acquired by Lord Ward whose son sold it at a moment of personal tragedy to the carpet manufacturer Sir Herbert Smith. The attribution to Canova seems to have been lost at this stage. It changed hands as a “classical figure” in 1938 and was purchased by Violet van der Elst, a campaigner who was instrumental in bringing about the abolition of the death penalty in England. It was in the garden in her house at Addison Road, Kensington and was sold with the house several times. In 2002 it was sold in a garden statuary sale and the attribution to Canova has only been established recently. It is now estimated at £5,000,000-8,000,000.  The earliest known photograph of the marble was taken in 1857 at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition which was opened by Prince Albert.

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