Lot 156
  • 156

Giovanni Bonazza (1654-1736) Italian, Padua, circa 1700

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Four reliefs with personifications of the Four Winds
  • white marble, in octagonal gilt wood frames
  • Giovanni Bonazza (1654-1736) Italian, Padua, circa 1700


Overall the condition of the reliefs is good with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There is veining to the marble consistent with the material, including some small mineral (metal) deposits. There are also various specks of dirt, in particular to the crowned figure with the key. The reliefs appear to have been previously set into surrounds, as there are various traces of plaster/composite material around the edges of each of the reliefs. There are a few small losses to the edges of the reliefs, including losses to the upper edge and the lower edges of the crouching bearded figure. There are also some losses to the tops of the relief with the figure with the key and the relief with the beardless figure, where mounts have been drilled into the marble at the back. There are some small chips and abrasions, particularly to the high points of the marble, including: the crouching figure's proper right hand; and the beardless figure's proper left hand and proper right little finger. There are various further small abrasions, including to the edges of the reliefs. There are a few small inclusions, including to the face of the crowned figure, and particularly to the relief with the beardless figure. Overall the later frames are in good condition. There are various holes to the wood, and there is minor stable splitting.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

These four extraordinary figures in high relief are personifications the four mythological winds Aeolus, Boreas, Zephyrus, and Eurus. They are new additions to the oeuvre of the highly original Venetian Baroque sculptor Giovanni Bonazza, and are here attributed to the artist for the first time together with two reliefs of river gods in the Musée du Louvre and a design for such a figure in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Ultimately these four reliefs derive from Alessandro Vittoria’s stucco ceiling panels and lunettes with gods and nudes that decorate the interior of the Palazzo Thiene and Palazzo Bissari-Arnaldi in Vicenza, as well as his ovals in the Scala d’Oro in the Venetian Palazzo Ducale. Each of these figures is characterised by bulging volumes and contorted shapes much like the present personifications of the Winds. However, Vittoria’s 16th-century examples have been imbued here with a creative freedom that is entirely original and highly idiosyncratic. The present reliefs do not merely represent the Winds, they appear to have captured and contained their force, a typically Baroque stylistic device. The foremost sculptor of such Baroque inventions in Venice is Giovanni Bonazza. The Winds’ exaggerated anatomy, the design of the physiognomy, and grotesque features are closely approached by the profile reliefs of the tyrants Attila the Hun and Ezzelino III da Romano by him in the Musei Civici in Padua. A further stylistic, typological, and physiognomical parallel can be found in Bonazza’s San Girolamo penitente from the Franciscan convent in Rovigno. The sculptor represents the saint as a powerful bearded old man lying on the ground. Zephyrus is the only subject that Bonazza seems to have treated more often. A version of the Zephyrus in the round is located in the garden of Villa Vendramin Cappello in Noventa Padovana which has a similar appearance to the relief that represents this Wind.

In addition to the present set of the Winds, two further reliefs in the Musée du Louvre can now be attributed to Bonazza. The Louvre reliefs represent two Rivers contained within marble ovals much like the present figures. They were probably coupled with two further lost reliefs to form a group representing the canonical Four Rivers. The Louvre reliefs were previously attributed to the French sculptor Guillaume Boichot (1735 - 1814). They were part of the collection of the French painter Gabriel-François Doyen (1726 - 1806) who moved to Russia shortly after the French Revolution. In the process his collection was confiscated by the revolutionary government and deposited in the École des Beaux-Arts. There the Rivers were used by the students as models, which is why molds, bronze casts, and versions in grès émaillé exist.  The research into the present reliefs has yielded one further discovery. A drawn design for one of the Rivers in the Louvre is kept in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. This drawing was previously attributed to the painter Giovanni Angelo Borroni (1684 - 1772) but must be a preparatory drawing for the Louvre relief.

Representations of the Winds are rare and usually confined to architecture. In Vincenzo Cartari’s influential 1556 treatise Imagini colla sposizione degli dei degli antichi they are described as having to be represented with their wings and hair tousled. Cartari also mentions that the Winds should be differentiated from each other by illustrating their individual effects. Here Bonazza gave each Wind its own set of attributes, occasionally subtly hidden in the background. The foremost figure, Aeolus, reclines majestically on soft clouds and is identifiable by his crown, scepter, and key. Aeolus is technically not a Wind but their ruler. His key unlocks the cave in which he keeps the Winds captive. The dauntless bearded man that turns his agitated face towards the spectator, huddled and clenching his fist, is Boreas, the frosty and impetuous wind that blows from the North. Zephyrus has butterfly wings and a youthful appearance. He personifies the westerly wind that carries warm and sweet air in spring. Its fertile nature is underlined by the flowers and fruits which Zephyrus holds between his fingers. He puffs his cheeks and reclines on light clouds with a radiant sun and a hint of a rainbow in the background. Lastly, there is Eurus, the wind blowing from the South-East, shown by Bonazza as a contemplative old man. This Wind tends to bring rain which is illustrated on the far right as well as the figure’s long wet hair.

V. Cartari, Le Imagini de i dei de gli antichi, Venice, 1580, pp. 260-261; R. Tomić, ‘Dva djela iz ostavstine Gaspara Kraljeta u ckrvi sv. Antuna Opata u Velom Losinju’, Umjetnost na Istocnoj obali Jadrana u kontekstu eropske tradicije, Rijeka, 1993, p. 24, fig. 4; D. Banzato et al., Dal medioevo a Canova. Sculture dei Musei Civici di Padova dal Trecento all’Ottocento, Venice, 2000, pp. 163-166, nos. 90-91

Sotheby's would like to thank Maichol Clemente and Simone Guerriero for their assistance in cataloguing this lot and for sharing their discoveries with us.