1757: the first foundations at the Academy of San Ceccardo
The Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara was officially founded in September, 26th 1769 by Maria Teresa Cybo, Duchess of Massa and Princess of Carrara, wife of Ercole Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena. But already few years before, the foundations of an Academy dedicated to San Ceccardo were laid: Accepting the proposal of Giovanni Domenico Olivieri, a sculptor from Carrara who had lived in the court of Spain and had collaborated at the foundation of the Academy of Madrid, Maria Teresa promulgated in April 1757 the statutes of an Academy in Carrara that provided the teaching of the three arts (painting, sculpture and architecture).
There was also a previous tradition of sculpture practicing, carried by private individuals who had a workshop in Carrara - like that of the Baratta at Baluardo - and became patrons of their students. The more ancient Academy of San Ceccardo was never activated and had to only in 1769 Maria Teresa, with a following official document, claimed the birth of the Academy and started the courses. However Painting was eliminated from the Statute. The Academy was therefore created to promote the development of arts, while supporting the marble industry and trade. For this purpose, the School of Sculpture and the School of Architecture were established. The Chief Director of the School of Sculpture was John Antonio Cybei, while the Inspector of the School of Architecture was Philip Del Medico, who also designed the Academy's seat. Considering the historical background, the Academy of Carrara is recognized to be founded about a dozen years before the date of the official official document, so it has been placed among the most ancient academies in Europe.
Three women at the origin of the Academy
A new seat was built, starting from 1771, to host the Academy's courses (the current Red Palace, now the Civic Library). In addition, in 1781, Maria Teresa set up a marble tax to refound the School costs. Following the first years of growth, there were others of decay because of the death of the founder and the repercussions in Italy of the Revolution of 1789. When Massa and Carrara were annexed to the Cisapline Republic (1796), Hercules III, returned from Modena, adopted some provision Which ensured the survival of the school, while preserving the importance and the decorum at the same time. The Public Education Commission was placed at the head of the Academy and the Ornate School was established. After this temporary recovery, the Academy faced very hard years until Napoleon reconquered Italy. In 1805 the Academy assumed the name "Eugenian" in honour of Eugenio Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, and thanks to new regulations, it became a national institution. The didactic structure was enriched with History and Mythology and pictorial Anatomy chairs.
Canova and the establishment of the Plaster Casts Collection
Attracted by the necessity to have the most valuable marble for sculpture, the most renowned sculptors of the time, including Canova, had to come to Carrara and could not ignore the Academy: many of them donated "casts" and "plasters" to allow the Institute to equip itself with a collection. Headed by Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, ruler of the Duchy of Lucca and Piombino with the Principality of Massa and Carrara, the Academy continued its educational activities in the best way, gaining benefits from the teachings of the French painter Desmarais, the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, the poet Giovanni Fantoni And Lorenzo Papi. In 1810, Elisa Bonaparte located the Academy in the current palace, after having expanded and restored it. Subsequent interventions on the medieval fortress were structured from 1623 to 1863, beyond Elisa's government; In 1924 new restoration work was needed due to the 1920 earthquake.
The competition for the apprenticeship in Rome
Among Elisa’s merits, there was also the creation of a prize whose winners had the opportunity to spend a period of three years in Rome at the ateliers of famous artists, to improve themselves in the chosen discipline. The defeat of Napoleon (1813) caused another change in the administration of the city, which returned under the duchess Maria Beatrice, daughter of Maria Teresa and wife of Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. The Restoration brought changes in the educational structure: Foreign artists, without the protection of Elisa, were in a very unstable situation, so in 1816 they were invited to leave the Restored States of Este. Nevertheless, the Academy had a new regulation and a new staff, keeping the same didactic disciplines and the rules concerning the competition. In 1820, the Life Drawing School (two classes), the School of the Plaster Casts Hall (two classes), the Elementary School of Figure (two classes), the School of Architecture (two classes), the School of the Ornaments (two classes ), The School of History and Mythology (Class of History and Class of Mythology) and the Anatomy School (two classes). Courses were four-years long.
From the death of Beatrice to Italian Unification
When Maria Beatrice died in 1829, the governance passed to Francesco IV and then Francesco V, dukes who managed it personally and arbitrarily; Such political management had a negative impact on the Institute; If teachings could be assured and students practicing in Rome continued to be assisted, it was thanks the sculptor of Carrara Ferdinando Pelliccia, hired as teacher in 1836 and then appointed director in 1846, who devoted himself with great passion and sense of responsibility to the life of the Academy until 1895. In 1861, with the Italian Unification, the Academy had a ministerial regulation establishing its education system and regulating its didactic activities; A four-year study plan was created only for the Sculpture School and students could be admitted when they became twelve years old. During this long period of time, many generations attended the school and many students became internationally known and appreciated for their artistic talents. Carlo Finelli, Pietro Fontana, Pietro Tenerani, Bernardo Raggi, Giovanni Tacca, Luigi Bienaimé, Benedetto Cacciatori, Carlo Chelli and others are among them.
The Academy today: an Institute looking forward to University
Regulations remained unchanged (except for partial changes in 1895 related to teachings) until 1923. In that year a Royal Decree re-founded the current Academy only with its School of Sculpture, a four-years lasting course. In 1969 the School of Painting was also established, followed by that of Scenography in 1978 and that of Decoration in 1991. From 1923 until now, the legislation has not undergone substantive changes, except in the bureaucratic and administrative direction. The main innovation was the introduction of special courses in 1970, which attendance was initially optional and remained until the Ministerial Order dated July, 30th 1977, when it became mandatory for them to be introduced into the study plans of the Academy. These courses, now defined as "complementary", have become a permanent part of academic studies, following the new arrangements in this sector, established by the Ministerial Decree dated April ,13th 1992, on the redefinition of didactic ex-special courses.