Morbidezze di Primavera (The Softness of Spring) is one of Giacomo Balla's finest Futurist landscapes. It leads Bonhams' 4 February Impressionist & Modern Art sale with an estimate of £300,000-500,000 (€410,000-690,000).

Painted in around 1917 and signed 'Balla Futurista', Morbidezze di Primavera featured in one of the most highly celebrated series of the Italian master's oeuvre.

Working as drawing master for the daughters of Count Caetano Lovatelli, Giacomo Balla built a long and lasting relationship with the family and stayed with them during World War I and the early 1920s. It was from the Lovatelli's mansion in Tuscany that he created a sequence of works devoted to the transitions of the seasons between 1917 and 1920. Distilling seasonal change into a synthesis of line, vibrant color and abstract form, the works established Balla as one of the key pioneers of Futurism and early 20th century art.

Morbidezze di Primavera was among the 40 works exhibited at the Casa d'Arte Bragaglia in Rome in 1918 – Balla's first solo exhibition since the outbreak of World War I. To accompany the exhibition, Balla wrote his iconic Manifesto del Colore, in which he outlined the groundbreaking aims of Futurism.

"Futurist Italian painting is and must be more and more an explosion of colors", he announced. In a time when the emergence of photography and cinematography meant that "the pictorial reproduction of reality does not and cannot interest anyone anymore", Futurist painting must be "a surprise ... [a] simultaneity of forces".

Morbidezze di Primavera is a perfect emblem of Balla's call for art that was "playful, audacious, aerial, new, dynamic, extreme, interventionist".

Within the series, Balla created only five works under the title of spring, one of which is in the Museo del Novecento in Milan. He widely produced summer and autumn, but he never depicted winter. It seems the intrinsic bleakness of the season was untenable with Balla's predilection for light and colour.

The subject of Morbidezze di Primavera is a blossoming tree on a hillside, which is moving gently in a spring breeze. Applying gauzy layers of pastel tones, Balla created an abstraction of natural form that explores the sensations and emotions linked to the advent of spring. Painted during the destruction of World War I, it seems logical that this work has a particular metaphorical significance in the wider context of European history. As the continent struggled in the cold wreckage of the war, Morbidezze di Primavera depicts movement and new life emerging from the blank darkness of winter.

"It is impossible to look at this painting without gaining an overwhelming sense of Balla's belief in the powerful harmony of nature", said India Phillips, Bonhams Head of Impressionist & Modern Art. "The 'Seasons' series was a study of rhythm, color and energy, through which Balla projected nature as a dynamic, interconnected force. In Morbidezze di Primavera, he grants a true aesthetic beauty to the invisible forces of new life – a fitting subject for an artist who was pushing the boundaries of modern art into a new world of expression".

The sale will take place at Bonhams New Bond Street, London.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to https://www.bonhams.com


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