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A Letter From The Chevalier Antonio Canova: And Two Memoirs Read To The Royal Institute Of France On The Sculptures In The Collection Of The Earl Of Elgin; By The Chevalier E.Q. Visconti, Member Of The Class Of The Fine Arts, And Of The Class Of History And Ancient Literature; Author Of The Iconographie Grecque, And Of The Museo Pio-Clementino. Translated From The French And Italian.

Ennio Quirino Visconti

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Memoir on the sculptures which belonged to the Parthenon


London:: Printed For John Murray, Albemarle-Street, By W. Bulmer And Co. Cleveland-Row., 1816.

Physical Description

xxii, [ii], 221 p.; 219 mm. (Octavo.)


[T.p.] - Catalogue Of The Elgin Marbles, Vases, Casts, And Drawings. Prepared from the MS. of M. Visconti - Letter From The Chevalier Canova To The Earl Of Elgin - Memoir On The Sculptures Which Belonged To The Parthenon And To Some Other Edifices Of The Acropolis, At Athens. Read At A Public Meeting Of The Two Classes Of The Royal Institute Of France, In The Year 1815 - Index.


On the sculptures see: P. Tournikiotis, The Parthenon and its impact in modern times (1994).

On their reception see: I. Jenkins, Archaeologists & aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800-1939 (1992); S. Checkland, The Elgins, 1766-1917 (1988); B.F. Cook, The Elgin marbles (1984; repr. 1993); W. St.Clair, Lord Elgin and the marbles (rev.ed., 1983); J. Rothenberg, "Descensus ad terram": the acquisition and reception of the Elgin marbles (1977); M. Pavan, 'A. Canova e la discussione sugli Elgin Marbles', in Riv. Ist. N. Archeol. & Stor. A., 21-22 (1974-5), p.219-344; S.A. Larrabee, English bards and Grecian marbles (1943); T.L. Donaldson, 'Report of the Committee appointed to examine the Elgin Marbles', in Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1st series 5:2 (1837-42), p.100-08; Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Earl of Elgin's collection of sculptured marbles etc. (1816) [incl. testimonies of Nollekens, Flaxman, Westmacott, Lawrence, R.P. Knight, B. West PRA]; B.R. Haydon, The judgement of connoisseurs upon works of art compared with that of professional men, in reference more particularly to the Elgin marbles (1816); Memorandum on the subject of the Earl of Elgin's pursuits in Greece (1810) [incl. letter of B. West]; G. Cumberland [Letter], in Monthly magazine (1808 July 1), p.519-20.

Summary Note

Canova's letter to Lord Elgin occupies pages xxi-xxii only; the rest of the text is by E.Q. Visconti.

Elgin had received permission to remove the Parthenon sculptures while he was British ambassador at Constantinople in 1801-3. The marbles were displayed in London in 1807 and offered for sale to the British Government. They promped sharp debate - firstly on whether the Government would be condoning plunder or saving the works from neglect, and secondly on the aesthetic merits of the works themselves. Most viewers preferred them to the more familiar copies or adaptations of ancient Greek sculpture collected at Rome, and several saw in them an admirable naturalism. Before the British Government bought them (in 1816), a Select Committee of the House of Commons sought the opinions of artists and connoisseurs, including those of the President of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West.

Binding Note

19th-century half green morocco, green marbled-papered boards; spine lettered 'Canova And Visconti On The Elgin Marbles', 'R.A.' and 'London 1816'.

Name as Subject


Mythology, Greek - Iconography
Sculpture, Greek - Bas-reliefs - Statues - Site-specific works - Public sculpture - Monuments - Temples - Greece - Athens - Acropolis - Parthenon - History - 5th century B.C.
Collections - Great Britain - London - 19th century
Art criticism - Art history - Europe - France - Italy - 19th century