Prince Henry Gardens - Statue of Venus (a copy of Antonio Canova's Venus)

Prince Henry Gardens - Statue of Venus (a copy of Antonio Canova's Venus)

Venere di Canova, or Venus as she is known, was the first public artwork to be erected in the city. It is a direct copy of a work by the 18th-century Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. (The title Venere di Canova means “Canova’s Venus”).

The statue is of Venus emerging from a bath. Startled by someone, she attempts to cover herself. This was a common subject in Classical Roman sculpture and in later Renaissance and Neo-Classical art. At its unveiling on September 3, 1892, there was an outcry over the figure’s lack of clothing. Conservative Victorian Adelaide was offended by a nude body appearing in a public space. The council probably expected this reaction: Mayor Bullock noted at the unveiling that the statue was placed near the Government House guard house to deter “larrikinism and vandalism”. Wealthy pastoralist and philanthropist William Horn funded the work. Horn was a notable nineteenth-century figure and was involved with securing the Moonta-Wallaroo Mines for W W Hughes organising and funding the Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia and also served as MP for Flinders between 1887 and 1893. He was said to be 'one of the most generous public men' in South Australian history. An art lover, Horn donated two other sculptures to Adelaide’s streets, Hercules and The Athlete (now removed). He had read classics at Oxford University in 1872 and so chose classical subjects. Defending the sculpture from the moral indignation of the day, he referred to its classical and artistic origins. He said he intended it to educate and enlighten the Adelaide public and to encourage a love of art. Despite the outcry and several attempts to damage the sculpture’s creamy flesh, Venus was eventually accepted. However, her sufferings were not over. When the Allies’ victory was announced in August 1945, youths poured kerosene over the statue and tried to set it alight. Thankfully, the flames promptly died.


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The statue is historically significant for its association with William Horn, and as a rare example of classical sculpture in Adelaide.

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Images of Prince Henry Gardens - Statue of Venus (a copy of Antonio Canova's Venus)

  • South Australian Museum - North Wing
Fraser and Braysey
Building materials
Stone, Marble, Kapunda marble
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890)
1892 -
Architecture and design features
Engineering features
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Adelaide City Council
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Commemorative, Statue
AS2482 classification
32240 - Monument - Column - Cairn - Cross - Shrine - Marker - Statue
Public Access
Access unrestricted
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 0000/0000 H105100
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
5.1 Local Government
5.1.2 Civic Consciousness
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
6.2.7 Enjoying the natural environment
William Austin Horn
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


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