As the cup bearer of the gods and herself the goddess of youth, Hebe treads gracefully down from the clouds. Embodying hospitable generosity, her gestures are feminine as she offers a goblet containing the elixir of eternal youth. The gently flowing movement of her body, all the more elegant for its fine marble skin, is arrested in the two containers, which, made from hard gleaming metal, both contrast with and emphasize the translucence of the marble. Hebe is clothed in finely gathered drapery that plays around her legs, accentuating rather than concealing her shape. Her upper body is that of a girl, its form only hinted at as though wearing some light garment. Canova’s art comes at the end of a tradition in which the pleasing decorative aspect of the whole was valued above the effectiveness of individual parts, and when it was also still artistically acceptable to portray transitory, non-plastic notions such as floating and the wind, very much in the spirit of Baroque ideals of representation. Around 1800 the sculptor Canova enjoyed the highest of reputations throughout Europe, for his figures did indeed personify the Age of Sentiment and Sensibility.


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