A storm off a rocky coast

CARLO BONAVIA (1751-1788)

A storm off a rocky coast

1751 Italy

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Although part of the mainstream Neapolitan vedute tradition, which was popularized by Salvator Rosa in the seventeeth-century and developed by artists such as Leonardo Coccorante, Pietro Fabris, Gabriele Ricciardelli and Pietro Antoniani in the following century, Bonavia was above all influenced by the French view painter Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon 1714 - 1789 Paris). Bonavia may have met Vernet during the French artist’s sojourn in Naples in the 1740s and it is certain that he would have seen Vernet’s large Italianate landscapes in Neapolitan and Roman private collections. Bonavia was so successfully absorbed Vernet’s style that his pictures were often (and still are) mistaken for those of his mentor.

Vernet’s Stormy Coastal Scene of 1751, which is a part of a set of four coastal views illustrating different times of the day, commissioned by the Grand Tourist, Benjamin Lethieullier, (see exhibition catalogue, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 4 June – 14 September 1986, National Trust, Kenwood House, London, nos. 29 – 32), is close to the Colnaghi picture and it sets as such that this work is from which Bonavia took his inspiration. He stood apart from his contemporaries in his ability to combine the fantastical and imaginative style of Vernet with elements of the Neapolitan landscape. As W.G. Constable remarked in his early survey of Bonavia’s works: “He, more than they, (Ricciardelli & Antoniani), is among the painters who turned the tradition of imaginative landscape painting to the uses of topography, rather then becoming simple recorders of fact.” (W.G. Constable, ‘Carlo Bonavia and some painters of vedute in Naples’ in Essays in Honour of Georg Swarzenzki, 1951, p. 204).

The characteristics of our painting, such as the dramatic lighting of the sky, the meticulously depicted waves, the overall clarity of detail, together with the grand scale of the composition, combine to make it an impressive work by the artist. It can be compared with some of his more highly ranked pictures such as the Landscape with the Temple of Diane in the Molinari Pradelli collection, Marano di Castenaso, (see N. Spinosa, Pittura napolitana del settecento, vol II, 1987, p. 157, no. 276, plate 56) and the View of Castel dell’Ovo, in the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Academy of Arts, Honolulu, (see N. Spinosa & L. di Mauro, Vedute napolitane del settecento, 1989, p.192, no. 69, fig. 68).

Height 81.00 cm (31.89 inches)
Width 145.50 cm (57.28 inches)
Oil on canvas, unlined
Signed lower left: c. bon/ / avia f
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