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Lalage nello Studio di Canova.

[VENTIGNANO (Cesare della Valle, Duca di)]

  • Publisher: Napoli Dalla Tipografia di Angelo Trani, 1814
Napoli Dalla Tipografia di Angelo Trani, 1814. FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. 8vo, 213 x 132, pp. 59 [60 blank], bound in contemporary marbled paper; corners curled, spine defective Ventignano addresses his preface to Canova (1757 - 1822) who was, of course, still alive in 1814, stating that he (Canova) cannot induce his soul to hope or to fear and that he does not presume to glorify him with his verses. A rare book of poetry on the sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822), widely regarded as the greatest sculptor of his day. Cesare della Valle, Duke of Ventignano (1776-1860) addresses his preface to Canova, who was, of course, still alive in 1814, stating that he (Canova) cannot induce his soul to hope or to fear and that he does not presume to glorify him with his verses. COPAC locates only a single copy: the National Art Library in the V&A Museum, London. OCLC adds UCLA, Harvard, NYPL, and the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC, plus four copies in continental libraries. The inscription, "Dall' arcivescovo di / Taranto a Bettina / Napoli Giugno / 1815", means "From the Archbishop of Taranto to Bettina / Naples, June 1815". The Archbishop of Taranto in 1815 was Giuseppe Capecelatro (1744-1836), the patron of Canova and an avid collector of sculpture. In addition to being an archbishop, he was a bibliophile, library founder, politician, art lover, and a friend of Goethe, Lamartine, Humboldt, and Sir Walter Scott (Wikipedia). The archbishop was close to the playwright and poet Cesare della Valle, Duke of Ventignano (1776-1860), who dedicated three of his books to the archbishop, Ippolito, Ifigenia, and his three-volume Tragedie. Owen Chadwick regarded Giuseppe Capecelatro as "the most charming archbishop of the Christian centuries", and said that all of "his later years, which were many, he spent in a charming house at Naples among a collection of works of art, and presided over a salon of European celebrity where visitors felt at their ease" (Owen Chadwick, The Popes and the European Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 548). Chadwick emphasizes that in "all Roman Catholicism he was the only archbishop to prefer a married to a celibate clergy" (p. 548). Now that we find ourselves, conveniently, on the topic of relations between men and women, who, pray tell, is Bettina? No doubt this is the brilliant polyglot bluestocking Bettina Rawdon, as she was known in Italy, though more often as Bessy Rawdon to her friends in Britain. Born Elizabeth Anne Rawdon (1793-1874), she was the daughter of Hon. John Theophilus Rawdon, and the niece of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings. In 1817, two years after the inscription in this copy, she would marry Lord George William Russell (1790-1846), the diplomat and politician, whose brother, Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878), would later be twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Lord John would himself propose to Rawdon, only to be refused, but for a good reason, as his younger brother had successfully proposed to Rawdon a few hours earlier the same day. Rawdon's beauty was legendary. Byron wrote of it, and Ingres drew it. As the art historian Hans Naef relates, "As a child, her parents took her with them on their Continental travels, so that she was able to learn the most important European languages at a very early age. She is said not only to have spoken German fluently, but later to have mastered it so far as to enjoy to the full the greatness of Goethe and Schiller. Not content with reading Latin and Greek, she attacked Sanskrit and Hebrew. As a child she was greatly admired by Mme de Stael, and their friendship lasted many years. Tsar Alexander declared her to be the most delightful woman in London. Among her friends she numbered Wellington, Humboldt, Schlegel, Pozzo di Borgo, Sismondi, Nesselrode, Metternich, Cardinal Consalvi, Palmerston. Byron celebrated her beauty in two stanzas from Beppo", whereupon Naef quotes stanzas 83 and 84 of the poem (Hans Naef, "Ingres' Portrait Drawings of English Sitters in Rome", The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 98, No. 645 (December 1956), pp. 427-435, 431, <>). For Elizabeth Anne Rawdon's relationship to Canova, see especially Hugh Honour's article "Canova and the Archbishop of Taranto" in Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on His Eightieth Birthday, Florence, 5 July 1984, ed. by E. Chaney and N. Ritchie (1984), pp. 209-221; or Antonio Canova's own Epistolario (1816-1817), Vol. 2 (2003); Timothy Clifford, The Three Graces: Antonio Canova (1995), p. 103; as well as Georgiana Blakiston, Lord William Russell and His Wife, 1815-1846 (1973), pp. 8-9, 44. Two short, separately-published biographies were issued in the 1870s: Harriet Grote's Lady William Russell: A Memoir (London, 1874), 15pp, and Annie Jane Harvey's Memoir of Lady William Russell (London, 1876), 53pp. Both memoirs, however, seem rather cleansed of controversy. OCLC locates copies at V&A, National Art Library in UK; UCLA, Harvard, NYPL, National Art Gallery, in the United States; and four copies in continental libraries.

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