Lot 187
  • 187

An Italian polychrome painted and parcel-gilt mirror attributed to Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo Turin, late 18th century

Estimate
70,000 - 100,000 USD
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Description

  • beechwood, mirror glass
  • height 89 1/2 in.; width 39 in.
  • 227.5 cm; 99 cm

Provenance

A Piedmontese Villa, The Contents of Vigna Corte di Bonvicino, Moncalieri, Sotheby's London, November 17, 2009, lot 14

Literature

Roberto Antonetto, Il Mobile Piemontese nel Settecento, Turin 2010, illustrated p.349, Fig. 5e.

Catalogue Note

This magnificent mirror with its crisp ornate foliate carving represents the apogee of Italian wood-carving in the late 18th century disseminated by the most celebrated official wood-carver to the Crown, Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo (1745-1820). The attribution to Bonzanigo is firmly based on the similarities of design and execution between the present example and his other known works.

There are four mirrors by Bonzanigo in King Vittorio Emanuele's apartments, in the Palazzina di Caccia, Palazzo di Stupinigi, Turin, illustrated in Giancarlo Ferraris, Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo e la scultura decorativa in legno a Torino nel periodo neoclassico (1770-1830), Turin, 1991, pl. 6-8 and in Antonetto, p.346-349. Those mirrors are of similar form to the present example: carved with flowers and foliage with a rectangular framing device with inverted corners.

Two of these four mirrors are carved with minor variations: e.g. a basket with flowers set to the sides of the stiles. In an account compiled by Bonzanigo in 1784, and published in January of the following year, the four mirrors were described in detail. From that account, we know that the mirrors were designed for the rooms of Madam Felicità's apartment at Stupinigi. The individuals who assisted in their production were also listed: Michel Rapous painted the garlands of leaves and flowers, Ponticelli gilded the other parts, and Deangeli created the glass. However, the name of the designer of these mirrors is nevertheless unknown. There are, however, several designs in Bonzanigo’s book reminiscent of the work of Leonardo Marini and Charles Randoni. Among these are the sketches probably used as the model by Bonzanigo to make a whole series of girandoles in 1789 for the Veneria Reale, now in Stupinigi.  A drawing of a mirror by Carlo Randoni, now in the Biblioteca Civica, Turin, from which Bonzanigo must have taken inspiration for this group of mirrors including the present example, is illustrated by Enrico Colle, Il Mobile neoclassico in Italia arredi e decorazioni d'interni dal 1775 al 1800, Milan, 2005, p. 452. 

Of Piedmontese origin, Bonzanigo settled in Turin in 1773, where he worked as a sculptor, wood-carver and cabinetmaker.  Known for the quality of his craftsmanship and designs, he was granted the patronage of the royal family. The following year he was elected to the Compagnia of San Luca. He worked for the Savoy Court for the next twenty years until the French invasion in 1796. In 1787, he was appointed official woodcarver to the Crown.

In the accounts of the royal family he is recorded as having supplied numerous stools, chairs, armchairs, benches, sofas, screens, beds and mirrors as well as many ornamental panels and chests of drawers for the Royal Palace in Turin and for the royal residences at Moncalieri, Rivoli, Stupinigi and Venaria. His reputation has grown, due in no small part, to the extraordinary quality of his wood carvings in light wood and ivory, the so-called 'microsculpture' which were highly sought after.

Although his work clearly reflects the influence of French style and design, there does not appear to be any documentary evidence that he visited Paris. However, he did exhibit at the 1808 Paris Exhibition. In 1815, with the fall of Napoleon and the return of the Savoy family, he was re-instated as royal sculptor. His justly deserved reputation was such that on his death in 1820, the Gazetta Piemontese wrote 'la bell'arte dell'intaglio ad aItissimo grado di perfezione con quarant'anni di assidue cure...'.

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