Letter: Artistic merits of the Three Graces

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Sir: We are concerned that Canova's Three Graces has been described in some of the comments on the Victoria & Albert Museum's campaign to keep the piece in this country as a second-rate work by a minor artist. Such an assessment takes no account of the fact that this was the most celebrated work of art commissioned by a British patron from a continental artist and, set in a building designed specifically for it, was regarded as such in the 19th century.

While individual responses to the sculpture may differ, we have no doubt at all about Canova's importance in the history of art or the status of the Woburn Three Graces; as well as being one of

the most beautiful works of neo- Classical art, it should be recognised as the most complex and consummate achievement in post- Baroque European sculpture.

Yours faithfully,

FRANCIS HASKELL, Professor, History of Art, Oxford; JOHN BARRELL, Professor, English and Related Literature, University of York; DAVID BINDMAN, Professor, History of Art, UCL; THOMAS CROW, Professor, History of Art, Sussex University; CAROLINE ELAM, Editor, Burlington magazine; HUGH HONOUR; MICHAEL KAUFFMANN, Director, Courtauld Institute; MARTIN KEMP, Professor, History of Art, St Andrews University; JENNIFER MONTAGU, Honorary Fellow, Warburg Institute; MICHAEL PODRO Professor, History of Art, Essex University; MARCIA POINTON, Professor, History of Art, Manchester University; THOMAS PUTTFARKEN, Professor, History of Art, Essex University

University of Oxford


23 August