Bonavia was a Neapolitan follower of Claude-Joseph Vernet. Vernet worked in Naples intermittently between 1736-1746 and the circle of artists he influenced includes not only Bonavia, but Pierre-Jacques Volaire, Alexandre-Jean Noël, Lacroix de Marseilles and Francesco Fidanza. Bonavia could be a slavish copier of Vernet's compositions, especially in his early career, and sometimes the two artists' works were confused -- as the later inscriptions of Vernet's name on the present paintings indicate. However, Bonavia created his own distinctive style, especially evident in his pastel palette and chalky finish, which differs significantly from that of Vernet. Bonavia achieved renown in his lifetime -- for example, Karl Joseph Firmian, the Austrian ambassador to Naples from 1753-58 is documented as having acquired seventeen works by the artist.
We are grateful to Professor Giancarlo Sestieri for confirming the attribution to Bonavia, on the basis of photographs (private communication, 17 April 2011).