Sebastiano Ricci Belluno 1659-1734 Venice
Time revealing Truth
oil on canvas
48 3/8 x 61 in. 123 x 155 cm.
E. Martini, 'Note sul Settecento veneziano: Sebastiano Ricci, Pellegrini, Crosato', Arte Documento, 1998, 12, pp. 111-7.
A. Scarpa, Sebastiano Ricci, Milan, 2006, pp. 305 and 407, no. 462, pl. 96, color pl. 11.

Lot Essay

Michael Levey once observed, 'Almost everything that happened in Venetian history painting of the [eighteenth] century goes back to Ricci'. Ricci's reputation stands as the first in a distinguished line of Venetian eighteenth century painters whose apogee was, of course, reached with Gian Battista Tiepolo. Immediately before Ricci were less memorable figures but Sebastiano's roots go back much further, to the art of the sixteenth century, and in particular to that of Paolo Veronese, who of all artists was the greatest inspiration to Venetian painters of the rococo period.

This beautifully preserved allegory may be dated to the very beginning of the eighteenth century and is an important example of what makes Ricci so interesting as an artist who crosses the threshold dividing the baroque and the rococo. The composition, pared down to underscore the erotic intensity of the moment, and even specific details, such as the dramatic gesture of Truth, the fingers on her outstretched hand silhouetted against a darkening sky, recall the mythologies of Luca Giordano (fig. 1), who of all seicento painters exerted the most profound influence on Ricci.

Ricci, painting with all the verve that characterizes his finest early works, contrasts the rough ruddy figure of Time, holding in one hand his scythe and in the other a rose, with the creamy soft figure of Truth, who with an outstretched arm pushes him away while, at the same time, as her gaze makes clear, she realizes that she cannot resist his advance.

This painting may be dated to 1700-5 and is probably contemporary with the Gods on Mount Olympus (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) painted for the Palazzo Mocenigo-Robilant. The soft flesh tones, the richly impastoed hair, the facial types, and the orange clouds are all unmistakable hallmarks of Ricci's style and this painting has none of the formulaic glibness that begins to characterize his later work. It was with history paintings such as this that Ricci ushered in the Venetian rococo, laying the ground for Pellegrini, Amigoni and ultimately Gian Battista Tiepolo.

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