A GOOD many years ago there lived in Italy a little boy
whose name was Antonio Canova. He lived with his
grandfather, for his own father was dead. His
grandfather was a stonecutter, and he was very poor.
Antonio was a puny lad, and not strong enough
to work. He did not care to play with the other boys of the
town. But he liked to go with his grandfather to the
stoneyard. While the old man was busy, cutting, and
trimming the great blocks of stone, the lad would play
among the chips. Sometimes he would make a little statue of
soft clay; sometimes he would take hammer and chisel,
and try to
 cut a statue from a piece of rock. He showed so much
skill that his grandfather was delighted.
"The boy will be a sculptor some day," he said.
Then when they went home in the evening, the
grandmother would say, "What have you been doing
to-day, my little sculptor?"
And she would take him upon her lap and sing to him, or tell
him stories that filled his mind with pictures of wonderful
and beautiful things. And the next day, when he went back
to the stoneyard, he would try to make some of those
pictures in stone or clay.
There lived in the same town a rich man who was called the
Count. Sometimes the Count would have a grand dinner, and
his rich friends from other towns would come to visit him.
Then Antonio's grandfather would go up to the Count's house
to help with the work in the kitchen; for he was a fine cook
as well as a good stonecutter.
It happened one day that Antonio went with his grandfather
to the Count's great house. Some people from the city were
coming, and there was to be a grand feast. The boy could
not cook, and he was not old enough to wait on the table;
but he could wash the pans and kettles, and as he was smart
and quick, he could help in many other ways.
 All went well until it was time to spread the table for
dinner. Then there was a crash in the dining room, and a man
rushed into the kitchen with some pieces of marble in his
hands. He was pale, and trembling with fright.
"What shall I do? What shall I do?" he cried.
"I have broken the statue that was to stand at the center of
the table. I cannot make the table look pretty without the
statue. What will the Count say?"
And now all the other servants were in trouble. Was the
dinner to be a failure after all? For everything
depended on having the table nicely arranged. The Count
would be very angry.
"Ah, what shall we do?" they all asked.
Then little Antonio Canova left his pans and kettles,
and went up to the man who had caused the trouble.
"If you had another statue, could you arrange the table?"
"Certainly," said the man; "that is, if the statue were
of the right length and height."
"Will you let me try to make one?"
asked Antonio. "Perhaps I can make something that will do."
The man laughed.
"Nonsense!" he cried. "Who are you, that you talk of
making statues on an hour's notice?"
 "I am Antonio Canova," said the lad.
"Let the boy try what he can do," said the servants, who
And so, since nothing else could be done, the man allowed
him to try.
On the kitchen table there was a large square lump of
yellow butter. Two hundred pounds the lump weighed,
and it had just come in, fresh and clean, from the dairy on
the mountain. With a kitchen knife in his hand, Antonio began
to cut and carve this butter. In a few minutes he had
molded it into the shape of a crouching lion; and all the
servants crowded around to see it.
"How beautiful!" they cried. "It is a great deal
prettier than the statue that was broken."
When it was finished, the man carried it to its place.
"The table will be handsomer by half than I ever hoped to
make it," he said.
When the Count and his friends came in to dinner, the first
thing they saw was the yellow lion.
"What a beautiful work of art!" they cried.
"None but a very great artist could ever carve such a
figure; and how odd that he should choose to make it of
butter!" And then they asked the Count to tell them the name
of the artist.
"The servants crowded around to see it."
 "Truly, my friends," he said, "this is as much of a
surprise to me as to you." And then he called to his
head servant, and asked him where he had found so
wonderful a statue.
"It was carved only an hour ago by a little boy in the
kitchen," said the servant.
This made the Count's friends wonder still more; and the
Count bade the servant call the boy into the room.
"My lad," he said, "you have done a piece of work of which
the greatest artists would be proud. What is your name, and
who is your teacher?"
"My name is Antonio Canova," said the boy,
"and I have had no teacher but my grandfather the
By this time all the guests had crowded around Antonio.
There were famous artists among them, and they knew that
the lad was a genius. They could not say enough in
praise of his work; and when at last they sat down at the
table, nothing would please them but that Antonio should
have a seat with them; and the dinner was made a feast in
The very next day the Count sent for Antonio to come and
live with him. The best artists in the land were employed to teach him the art in which he had shown so much skill;
but now, instead
 of carving butter, he chiseled marble. In a few years,
Antonio Canova became known as one of the greatest sculptors
in the world.