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Sebastiano Conca (Gaeta 1680-1764 Naples)
Sebastiano Conca (Gaeta 1680-1764 Naples)

The Rape of Europa

Sebastiano Conca (Gaeta 1680-1764 Naples)
The Rape of Europa
oil on canvas
19½ x 26½ in. (49.4 x 67 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 28 March 1979, lot 44.
G. Sestieri, Repertorio della pittura romana della fine del Seicento e del Settecento, Turin, 1994, II, fig. 298, illustrated.
Gaeta, Palazzo De Vio, Sebastiano Conca (1680-1764), July-October 1981, pp. 138-139, no. 24, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Born in Gaeta, Sebastiano Conca trained as a painter in the workshop of Francesco Solimena. In spite of the exuberant Baroque education he received in Naples, he became an extraordinary figure in the promotion of classicism under Pope Clement XI. He moved to Rome in 1707 and immediately updated his artistic language, following closely the example of Carlo Maratta, who was dubbed the new Raphael and entrusted with the restoration of the Stanze Vaticane. In Rome, he worked with Francesco Trevisani under the patronage of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (see lots 156 and 161), and there his artistic output stressed tradition and morality: this was not only an aesthetic choice but a political one, intended to renovate Rome and re-establish the city as the capital of Europe.
Conca was involved in major commissions, inside and outside Rome, for the most important religious and secular patrons, but his fame is also linked to his poetic easel paintings, of which this is such a fine example. Datable to the end of the 1710s, it is characterised by a vibrant and fresh palette: it illustrates with gaiety, and lightness of touch, the otherwise brutal abduction of Europa by Jupiter. The scene is conceived as a festive meeting of beautiful nymphs and putti, in an Arcadian, idyllic wooded landscape rendered with the delicacy of landscapists such as Andrea Locatelli and Jan Frans van Bloemen.

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