7th Jun, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

Lot 25
Lot 25 - Edoardo Villa (South Africa 1915-2011)


Edoardo Villa (South Africa 1915-2011)
Abstract torso

terrazzo with cement base

Sold for R274,500
Estimated at R240,000 - R280,000


terrazzo with cement base


excluding base: 98 x 55 x 38 cm; including base: 123.5 x 55 x 50 cm


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Edoardo Villa is today one of the most celebrated modernist South African sculptors, particularly renowed for his large-scale public steel works. What is often lesser known is his experimentation and exploration in mediums other than bronze and steel, such as terrazzo. During his sculpture studies in Italy, Villa was conscripted into the army as World War II started. In 1942, Villa was brought to South Africa as a prisoner of war in the Zonderwater camp. Shortly after being cleared at the camp in 1947, he searched in Johannesburg for a new home. Villa first lived in Joubert Park, after which he moved to a rondavel on the property of well-known Italian contractors the Lupini Brothers’ terrazzo factory in Wynberg. Terrazzo is a composite material, either precast or poured, which consists of a mixture of material chips such as granite, quartz, glass and marble to which a binder such as cement or epoxy is added. It is at this factory that Villa acquired his knowledge and skillsets for art precasting.

Gerard De Kamper, Museum Collections Curator at the University of Pretoria, notes that Edoardo Villa’s solo exhibition at Galerie Vincente, Pretoria in 1951 is the only exhibition in which Villa had exhibited works similar to Abstract torso, both in terrazzo and the abstracted smooth forms of the sculptures.[1] Villa was, at this time, fascinated with the human form and abstraction. South African art historian Esmé Berman describes this fascination by writing that “[m]an and his condition have been the central inspiration of Villa’s oeuvre throughout his career… the varied images and altering emphases eventuating from a lifetime’s preoccupation with a single theme”.[2] It was only later in the early 1950s, that Villa started experimenting with welding metal together. After that his sculptures would still look at abstraction and human form but in sharper and larger iterations that are reflective of dealing with steel and welding.

The knowledge and skillsets developed at the Lupini brothers’ factory did not only add to Villa’s artistic practice, but also allowed him to generate income through commissions. He was commissioned by the architect Sidney Abramowitch, through the Abramowitch, David Pinshow & Schneider architectural firm, to create three terrazzo panel sets depicting the 12 Tribes of Israel for this Shull in The Orchards suburb in Johannesburg. Abramowitch was part of many large architectural projects in Johannesburg, notably the Innes Chambers Law buildings and the Apartheid Museum. In an email conversation with Sidney Abramowitch’s daughter, Diane Smullen, she recounts that this artwork, Abstract torso, was gifted by Villa to the late architect Abramowitch to thank him for the commission which would give Villa the exposure that he needed and that they remained firm friends until Villa’s passing in 2011. [3]

Carina Jansen

[1] De Kamper, G. (2023). Text conversation with Carina Jansen, 15 May.

[2] Engel, E. P. (ed). (2008). Edoardo Villa: Sculpture. Johannesburg: United Book Distributors, p.17.

[3] Smullen, D. (2023). Email conversation with Carina Jansen, 22 May.

Edoardo Villa standing at his solo exhibition at Galerie Vincente, Pretoria, 1951.

Terrazo panels depicting the 12 tribes of Israel made by Edoardo

Villa at the Shull in The Orchards, Johannesburg.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 7th Jun, 2023


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction in Johannesburg. A feature of the carefully compiled collection is a strong focus on contemporary African artists. Collectors of contemporary works from Africa will be spoilt for choice with works by Thierry Oussou (Benin), Richard Mudariki (Zimbabwe) and Banele Khoza (Swaziland). Local contemporary favourites include Nandipha  Mntambo, Cinga Samson and Gerhard Marx amongst others. Contemporary photographers are also well represented with works by Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe) and South African international superstar, Zanele Muholi, while important historical images are included with works of Winnie Mandela by Alf Kumalo and a portfolio of twelve works – chronicling the hardships of apartheid – from Ernest Cole’s seminal House of Bondage (1967).

A highlight of the sale is South African modernist Alexis Preller’s, Adam (1972) – a recently discovered, never before seen, work forming part of Preller’s series of Adamic-themed works from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Other significant modern pieces include a unique terrazzo sculpture by Edoardo Villa, still lifes by Maggie Laubser and works by Cecil Skotnes, Walter Battiss and J.H Pierneef. 

The sale concludes with a special section of  William Kentridge editioned prints led by the impressive Blue Head (1993 – 1998).



Viewing will be open from  Friday 2 to Wednesday 7 June 8:30 to 16:30 and Saturday 3 June from 10:00 to 14:00.

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