The most sumptuous period for the Villa Widmann at Bagnoli di Sopra, near Padua, came with Ludovico Widmann, a lover of literature and art in general.
He was a prodigious patron, at least on a regional level, and was on very friendly terms with Carlo Goldoni. Goldoni was officially a guest on at least two occasions: the first in July 1755 and the second in April 1757. On both occasions, numerous recitals were organised, with impressive audiences in a picturesque and sumptuous setting.
The famous dramatist, by way of thanks for such a splendid welcome, dedicated his play “The Coffee Shop” to the nobleman. And in 1763, one year before the death of this generous friend, he wrote for him the poem titled “The Pilgrim”.
Yet also in his “Memoirs”, Goldoni mentioned these enjoyable visits on several occasions. One of his letters reveals that a salon next to the palace hosted various plays and many guests were involved in the performances. In fact, he also recalls having personally written several scenes for these enjoyable evenings.
The passion for the stage of Ludovico Widmann even influenced the appearance and especially the decoration of the garden. On the south-facing slope, the owner decided to close a large green space with a circular wall in the French style, embellished by perfumed lemon trees and hedges of hornbeam pruned to create backdrops and natural exedras.
Innovations, on the other hand, had to appear in the middle of the grassy stage. Following a compositional outline inspired by the commedie d’art and figures in a scenic setting modulated on two notes, one serious and the other playful, create a complex with 16 characters in Berici mild stone depicted in entirely natural attitudes free of any pompous rhetoric.
At the entrance there are two soldiers in 1700s uniform apparently guarding the villa. There follow a hunter, a young housewife, a guitar player, a spinner, a young girl with a fan, a nobleman, an angry horseman, an elderly dame, an old lover, a witch, an Oriental slave, a Turkish lord, a pregnant negress and a Moor warrior.
The works were restored in the early 1900s by Paduan sculptor Antonio Benello, whose brother Rinaldo was a pupil of Antonio Canova.
The base has the code A.B. and a few other indications, but damage to the material does not allow interpretation of anything else. The attribution of these works came in 1931 with Giovanni Gurian, in a publication crediting them to Paduan Antonio Bonazza, who was active more or less all over the Veneto: in Vicenza, Venice, Rovigo, Montagnana, Este and so forth.
Yet the execution of these works in Bagnoli, despite having in some way to interpret the sensitivity and desires of the principal, achieves the peak of his aesthetic parabola. He simultaneously represents figures from fairy tales and theatre.
by Lorenzo Iseppi – L’Informatore del Marmista