BONZI, Pietro Paolo
(b. ca. 1576, Cortona, d. 1636, Roma)
Fruit, Vegetables and a Butterflyc. 1620
Oil on canvas, 100 x 136 cm
This depiction of fruit and vegetables signed by Pietro Paolo Bonzi is the pendant of another signed painting also once in the Wetzlar collection. The pendants are two of the artist's three securely attributed still-lifes and as such form the cornerstone of our knowledge of Bonzi's oeuvre in this area and a point of departure for any further enlargement of it. His only other documented still-life is the famous decoration with swags of fruit, flowers and vegetables painted in the vault of the gallery of the Palazzo Mattei in Rome, which was commissioned by Asdrubale Mattei and executed with Pietro da Cortona in 1622-23. In May 1626, Marchese Mattei also commissioned two paintings with assorted fruit and five 'all different' flower paintings from Bonzi. In Asdrubale's 1638 posthumous inventory three paintings are listed as `birds by il Gobbo'. These and a few other documents attesting to his activity as a still-life painter reveal unequivocally that Bonzi was an artist who paid close attention to the natural world. His ability to render fruit in a naturalistic manner was transmitted directly to his only pupil named in the sources, Michelangelo Cerquozzi.
Works such as Bonzi's Fruit, Vegetables and a Butterfly opened the path for Cerquozzi's luxuriant and exuberant baroque still-life paintings. The artichokes, celery, pears, melon, slice of water melon, bunch of red strawberries, cherries, peaches, hazelnuts and figs on a stem, plus the two bunches of precariously piled white grapes, justify Giovanni Baglione's statement that Bonzi, 'with his fruit caught the eye and deceived the spectator'. Here Bonzi's skill at optical illusion, his ability to outdo reality - the artichokes and figs would surely fall if gravity's laws were obeyed - are sustained by his artistic talent.