This a notable marble sculpture was created by the renowned Italian artist Antonio Canova, dating from 1781-1782. This piece is currently housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which acquired it in 1962.

The sculpture depicts the legendary Greek hero Theseus just after he has slain the Minotaur, as recounted in Ovid's "Metamorphoses." It was commissioned by Girolamo Zulian, the Venetian ambassador to Rome and a patron of Canova's. Zulian provided Canova with the marble block and allowed the artist to choose the subject. The choice was influenced by Canova's friend, Gavin Hamilton, who suggested the scene from Ovid's text.

The statue is a physical manifestation of Enlightenment ideals, symbolizing the victory of reason over irrationality. Canova's work exudes physical and spiritual tranquility, qualities he attributed to the best of Hellenistic art. So faithful was Canova's homage to the classical style that initial viewers mistook it for an ancient Greek original, and its contemporary provenance shocked them.

The sculpture's reputation, and by extension Canova's, was bolstered by an engraving by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen, which helped disseminate its image.

Although originally intended for Zulian, the sculpture never reached him due to his departure from Rome for Constantinople. Canova then sold it to the Austrian collector Count Moritz von Fries, who brought it to Vienna. Later, before 1822, it was acquired by Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, and placed in Londonderry House in London. It remained there until the contents of the house were sold prior to the building's demolition in the 1960s. The Victoria and Albert Museum then purchased the sculpture for £3,000, with a third of the cost covered by the National Art-Collections Fund.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Rome, Italy