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We Won (The Footballer)

“We Won”, also known as “The Footballer”, was sculptured by the sculptor Tommaso Sani who was well-known in Sydney in the 1880s.

Most of Sani’s work was commissioned as embellishment for public buildings. Most notable of Sani’s work is found in the Pitt Street façade of the General Post Office, Sydney. Sani was known for his naturalistic style and his satirical approach which contrasted with the classical approach of his contemporaries.

Graeme Sturgeon in his book: The Development of Australian Sculpture, 1788-1975 (Thames and Hudson, 1978) describes “We Won” as one of Sani’s most important works. The life-sized figure, dressed in a woollen cap, sweater and tight knee-length trousers worn by football players of the day contrasts with the serene and idealised Neoclassical face of Apollo.

Sturgeon writes:

The figure stands upon a cylindrical pedestal which is decorated with high relief panels, the whole standing on a granite base atop a series of steps which are in turn surrounded by a chain held up by eight small seated lions.

The bronze pedestal shows eight scenes of a match in progress, played, not as might be expected by muscular men, but by hordes of tiny putti.

To drive home the satirical point further, the scenes of the match are separated by four large female cherubs, each adding in various ways to the mock dignity of the occasion. The first is enthusiastically trumpeting the beginning of the match, the second recording the score, the next inviting attention of the spectator and the last standing victoriously with the lion-skin of Hercules cast around her head and shoulders.

More on Sani

Sani was controversial in Sydney in the 1880s due to his work on the embellishment of public buildings. His most prominent work was the Pitt Street façade of the GPO building on which his carvings depicting working class figures -not the usual choice of subject matter for important buildings - met with opposition. Today, such a sculpture would probably be classed ahead of its time.

This Florentine sculptor, who made his home in Leichhardt, was part of a small but influential set of Italian artists which included painters Giulio Anivitti and Giuseppe Ferrarini and interior designer Augusto Lorenzini all of whom brought their classical traditions to their Australian work.