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Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-1730)
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Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-1730)

A wooded landscape, with gentlemen in a carriage on a road in the foreground, a valley beyond

Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-1730)
A wooded landscape, with gentlemen in a carriage on a road in the foreground, a valley beyond
oil on canvas, in a contemporary carved and gilded frame
31¾ x 44 in. (80.8 x 112 cm.)
Anonymous sale [The Property of a Gentleman]; Christie's, New York, 31 January 1997, lot 160.
R. Pallucchini, 'Cinque secoli di pittura a Schiaffusa, ad Amsterdam e a Bruxelles e tre secoli a Parigi', Arte Veneta, VII, 1953, pp. 197-9.
R. Pallucchini, 'Studi Ricceschi: contributo a Marco', Arte Veneta, IX, 1955, pp. 187 and 189.
E. Martini, La Pittura Veneziana del Settecento, Venice 1964, p. 175, note 87.
A. Scarpa Sonino, Marco Ricci, Milan, 1991, p. 124, no. 40, and p. 266, fig. 172.
Schaffhausen, 500 Jahre venezianische Malerei, 1953, p. 43, no. 87a (catalogue by G. Jedlicka).
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, De Venetiaanse Meesters, 26 July-11 October 1953, p. 47, no.7.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, La Peinture vénitienne, 16 October 1953-12 January 1954, p. 46, no. 75 (catalogue by R. Pallucchini).
Bassano del Grappa, Palazzo Sturm, Marco Ricci, 1 September-10 November 1963, pp. 80-1, no.56, illustrated (catalogue by G. M. Pilo).
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Lot Essay

This is an outstanding work by one of the greatest of eighteenth-century Italian landscape painters. Marco Ricci was the nephew of Sebastiano Ricci, and a painter, printmaker and stage designer. He probably began his career in Venice in the 1690s as a pupil of his uncle, concentrating on history painting. Little is known about Ricci's early development, and it is difficult to establish a chronology for his work. His earliest dated landscapes are serene and classical, showing an indebtedness to Nicolas Poussin, Pieter Mulier, whom Ricci probably knew, was another formative influence; and the example of Salvator Rosa, Joseph Heintz II and Johann Eisman further encouraged the more romantic aspect of his art. In 1705 Ricci is documented as collaborating with Alessandro Magnasco, under whose influence his technique became freer and more fluent. In 1706 he may have assisted Sebastiano in the decoration of Palazzo Marucelli, Florence.

In 1708 he left for England, with Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, in the train of the retiring English ambassador of Charles Montagu, 4th Earl, and later 1st Duke, of Manchester. Their journey took them through the Netherlands where Ricci evidently studied Dutch pictures, to which he may already have had access in Italy. During his sojourn in England, Ricci worked on several monumental decorative cycles, most notably for Lord Manchester's house in London (with Pellegrini) and at Castle Howard for the Earl of Carlisle. Ricci left England in 1715 and returned in 1716 to Venice, where he produced many stage designs for theatres and found an important patron in the merchant Joseph Smith who acquired an unrivalled number group of his works, pictures, gouaches and watercolours, the greater part of which is now in the Royal Collection.

Ricci's position in the mainstream of Venetian art is due to his activity as a landscapist. In this field, while absorbing the influence of the more nearly contemporary artists already mentioned, he must have been keenly aware of the landscape drawings of the world of Titian, including those of Domenico Campagnola. The relationship of Ricci's landscapes in differing media is particularly instructive: he painted in oil and prepared works in gouache on both vellum and kidskin; he made drawings, both as studies and as independent works of art to be sold to such collectors as Smith and Anton Maria Zanetti; and he etched some of the latter. This picture was developed from a drawing sold at Christie's Monaco, 20 June 1994, lot 2: the composition was expanded; the details of the trees that frame this were altered, although their general disposition remained the same; the caleche and the horseman behind this became less prominent and the figural interest of the foreground was enhanced.

In a certificate of 12 August 1954, Professore Antonio Morassi commented that this picture 'è da considerarsi come il capolavoro del periodo naturo di Marco Ricci'. Scarpa Sonnino observes of this, and its former pendant: 'I due dipinti d'altissima qualità, sono tra le prove più elevate della produzione natura di Marco'. She proposes a date in the late 1720s, and points out that a closely related, but presumably lost, composition was engraved in reverse by Giuliano Giampiccoli (II, ii; Viero edition, III, ii). This was not necessarily in oil, but could equally well have been a gouache or drawing. This late masterpiece by Ricci demonstrates why, just as his own evolution reflects debts to earlier masters, his own example was to be a formative influence on both the outstanding Venetian landscape specialists of the next generation, Zuccarelli and Zais.

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