CFP: After Canova. Sculpture made in Rome from 1822 to 1870 (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, 27–28 Oct 2022)

What happens to Rome – the unrivalled European center of neo-classical sculpture – after Canova’s death in 1822? The workshops of Bertel Thorvaldsen, Adamo Tadolini and John Gibson continue to produce works for the European and global art market – and still large numbers of sculptures are exported from the papal city. There is, however, a growing tension between neo-classicism and the reception of classical art, and new trends, which are expanding the range of topics of sculpture. The subjects change, and figures from (historical and contemporary) literature are depicted more frequently, as well as re-readings and reinterpretations of the topics from antiquity that were still prevalent around 1800. Genre and non-European themes are also playing an increasingly important role.

Deadline: 5 Jun 2022

The last years have seen a surge of publications discussing the self-fashioning and market strategies, the workshop practices and the commissions of works by Rome-based artists of the time. Copies and reproductions of works by Canova and Thorvaldsen have received a great deal of attention and still define the perception of sculpture from the 1820s to 1860s. However, the (re)production machinery that was responsible for the sculpture galleries and collections as well as the decoration of the palaces of the nobility and the up-and-coming bourgeoisie in the decades mentioned is only part of this story. The picture of post-Canova generation of sculptors is still blurred. Although the form of the works often seems to be in the tradition of Canova and even Thorvaldsen, things are bubbling beneath the surface. Artists experiment with surfaces, materiality and production processes. New ideas grow out of the political crisis of the decades after 1822: the restoration and, as a counter-movement, the Risorgimento leading towards the unification of Italy, are characterized by increasing social insecurity. Rome isn’t just a place where social tensions erupt, such as the revolution and siege of the 1840s – the city is also marked by poverty, disease (such as the cholera epidemic of 1837), destruction and crime.

At the same time, Rome loses its role as capitale della scultura. The almost obligatory sojourn in Rome, especially at the French Academy, seems to become less important. The British Academy, founded in the 1820s, does not catch on. National schools across Europe compete with the pan-European ideal identified with Rome. And yet: Rome remains a place where expats can work more freely and under less social control. American sculptors settle down, the British community remains large.

The conference poses the open question of how sculpture made in Rome after Canova’s death can be outlined more clearly. The 30-minute contributions can deal with the following questions or open up other perspectives:

a) Departure or Peripetia?
– To what extent does Rome in the 19th century offer a climate for innovation (“White marmorean Flock”) or is it the place for dead-ends (Ferdinand Pettrich)?
– How do (endless) reproductions relate to the new topics and innovative production techniques?
– What is the role of the (European) academies? Is Rome still a place for the study of antiquity, or what kind of experiences are the Rome scholarship holders and traveling artists looking for in the Eternal City?
– What are the new/actual centers of artistic exchange?
– Which workshops, salons and groups drive innovations? Is there still an avant-garde in Rome?

b) The breaking apart of form and content (Thorvaldsen, Gibson)
– How does the form fit with the content?
– To what extent do the production conditions in Rome contribute to the content of the sculpture?
– What role do the sculptors claim in the workshop process?
– Which inventions are made or are known today?
– How does the production of sculpture in Rome relate to that in the rest of Europe?
– Is there such a thing as a ‘romantic sculpture’?

c) Between disorientation, entropy, and fragility (sculpture and light, music, scent) and ephemeral petrification (multisensory experiences)
– How is sculpture presented in the workshops and collections?
– How do ephemeral and non-ephemeral situations relate to one another?
– What do we know about multisensory experiences of sculpture in- and outside of Rome?
– How does sculpture relate to other artistic genres?
– Collaborations and border crossings: interactions between sculpture, music, literature?

d) Topics and subjects: violence, brutality, neo-humanism, feminism, abolition of slavery, prisoners, wounds in the stone, anguish
– Which topics are included?
– How do current political and social issues affect the topics of sculpture and how are they taken up/processed?
– (How) do the artists position themselves?

Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) and a short biography in German, English, Italian or French to Johannes Myssok ( and Anna Frasca-Rath (, no later than June 5, 2022.