Sebastiano Ricci The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
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Sebastiano Ricci ( Belluno 1659 - Venice 1734 )

Sebastiano Ricci was a successful decorator active at the end of the Baroque era, who developed the achievement of Veronese into a spirited Rococo style. He was also responsive to a wide variety of 17th-century influences, including Annibale Carracci, Pietro da Cortona and Gaulli. He often collaborated with his nephew Marco (1676–1730), who became a specialist in decorative landscape painting. Sebastiano, after early training in Venice under the little known Federico Cervelli and in Bologna under Giovanni Gioseffo dal Sole (1654–1719), received his first major commission in 1685: the decoration of two cupolas in the nave and choir of the oratory of the Madonna del Serraglio in S. Secondo Parmense. He moved to Rome in 1691 and the following year was invited to paint a large fresco of the Battle of Lepanto for the Palazzo Colonna. He was in Milan in 1694–6 but by 1696 he was back in Venice and found regular employment in the region, most notably the decoration of the nave ceiling in S. Marziale with illusionistic frescoes of the Legends of S. Martial. He was also called to Florence to work for the Grand Duke Ferdinand de'Medici: a Crucifixion for S. Francesco de'Macci, commissioned in 1704 and a ceiling fresco of Venus and Adonis, with further scenes from Ovid on the walls, for the Palazzo Pitti c.1707–8. Both in Milan and Florence he appears to have collaborated with Anton Peruzzini (1646/7–1724), an artist specializing in landscape.

In 1711 Sebastiano, with his brother Marco, went to England. They both received patronage from Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington. Sebastiano was engaged to paint four large canvases (c.1713–14) for the staircase at Burlington House, London (now the Royal Academy), Diana and her Nymphs Bathing harks back to Veronese but there are also reminders of Pellegrini in the treatment of the freely sketched foreground nymph. The Triumph of Galatea echoes the spirit of Giordano while the Meeting of Bacchus and Ariadne is inspired by Annibale Carracci's ceiling decoration of the Palazzo Farnese, Rome. Two further paintings now at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, one signed and dated 1713, may also have been commissioned by Lord Burlington, whose daughter married the 2nd Duke of Devonshire's grandson. The Flight into Egypt evokes the spirit of Jacopo Bassano; The Presentation in the Temple recalls Veronese. The two Riccis left England in 1716, having failed to secure the commission to decorate the dome of S. Paul's, a task assigned to the English artist Sir James Thornhill.

For the remainder of his life Sebastiano, whose international reputation was now assured, lived in style at Venice. However he accepted a commission to decorate the ballroom of the Palazzo Gabrielli (now Taverna), in Rome, with a sumptuous cycle of paintings on the Loves of the Gods (1717). And he continued to receive patronage from England. He collaborated with Marco to produce two paintings from a large series of imaginary monuments dedicated to recent English heroes, a project conceived by the Irish playwright and opera producer Owen MacSwinny: the Allegorical Tomb of the 1st Duke of Devonshire (Birmingham, Barber Institute) and the Allegorical Tomb of Sir Cloudesley Shovell (Washington, National Gallery). The two artists also joined forces to produce a series of seven scenes from the Life of Christ (1724–30; London, Royal Collection) for the Venetian palazzo of the consul Joseph Smith.

Ricci is represented in the following collections: Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Hermitage, St Petersburg; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; The Royal Collection, London; Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin; Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Venice; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza, Italy; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, France; Musée Fesch, Ajaccio, France; Museo Correr, Venice; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; National Brukenthal Museum, Romania; National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; Pinacoteca Civica di Vicenza, Italy; San Diego Museum of Art, California; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, amongst others.