Augusto Lorenzini’s allegory
In the 1880s and early 1890s Lorenzini's commissions in Sydney, mostly carried out in the High Renaissance style of Raphael, ranged across commercial, ecclesiastical and domestic work. He was awarded a first order of merit for his mural art decorations in the New South Wales court at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. This watercolour and gouache presentation drawing is one of a set of designs, each representing one of the Australian colonies. It may relate to Lorenzini’s exhibit at Melbourne in 1888.
Lorenzini’s drawing is part of a long tradition of personifying nations or states using female allegorical figures. There were a number of such representations of New South Wales painted or sculpted in the 1880s, including a statue by Giovanni Fontana in 1883 in which a classical female figure, wearing a chaplet of waratahs, carries a cornucopia of fruit and grain and has a nugget of gold beside her right foot and a fleecy ram at her left foot. A painting by Nicholas Habbe from 1884 also depicts New South Wales as a classical goddess carrying a cornucopia and flanked by a ram. Lucien Henry’s 1888 version of New South Wales in stained glass in the Sydney Town Hall is another female figure surrounded by waratahs and wearing a ram’s-horn headdress. Lorenzini’s representation of New South Wales, by contrast, shows a goddess holding a glittering gold crown, attended by a cupid and seated on a rock in monochromatic bushland. She represents New South Wales as Commerce, in a narrative division of labour between four Australian colonies in which Victoria is Manufactures, Queensland is the Pastoral Industry and South Australia is Agriculture.