Of grand scale and remarkable composition, Carlo Nicoli’s Four Seasons are fine examples of the large-scale sculptures produced by celebrated North Italian sculptors and their workshops in the late 19th century. Nicoli’s figures, wrapped in elaborate draperies and carrying attributes for their respective seasons – flowers for Spring, sheaves of corn for Summer, grapes for Fall and pinecones for Winter – at once reprise classical precedent and reinterpret them with the panache of a modern hand.
A native of Carrara, Carlo Nicoli studied in the Accademia and moved to Florence where he participated in the city’s fine art exhibitions. Nicoli then returned to Carrara where he established a marble workshop, known as the Ditta Prof. Comm. Carlo Nicoli, a large studio in which he, his descendants and their assistants created a number of large-scale works for commissions in Italy and around the world as his renown quickly spread. Notable works by Nicoli include a monument to Garibaldi in the Piazza del Teatro in Carrara, figures of Queen Elizabeth for Brighton, Durban and Melbourne and several large-scale groups and ecclesiastical sculptures destined for Mexico.
In addition to the present lot, a small number of versions of Nicoli’s Four Seasons are known: that shown at the 1875 Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures (numbers 1081, 1083, 1097 and 1101); that from the family’s property, the Villa Nicoli in Lugano and sold Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2013, lot 147 (£302,500); and that created for the façade of the Galleria Umberto I in Naples, part of a series of eighteen sculptures Nicoli produced for this grand shopping arcade constructed in the city’s centre between 1887-90. In addition, the plaster models for the Four Seasons are today in the collections of the Nicoli Sculpture Studios in Carrara. The Neapolitan Four Seasons are still visible in situ on the façade of the Galleria Umberto I across from the city’s Opera House and, like the present lot, are a fine testament to the sculptor’s virtuoso skill and the grand ambitions of his age.