Although little is known about Marco Ricci's early development, the present pictures can confidently be dated to the beginning of his career. This was a turbulent time for Ricci. In the 1690s, whilst probably a pupil of his uncle, he murdered a gondolier after a brawl and fled to Split in Dalmatia where he remained for four years working as an apprentice to a landscape painter.
This pair of canvases probably date from soon after his return to Venice in around 1700. They reveal Ricci's formative influences: the landcapes of Salvator Rosa, Pieter Mulier and, more noticeably, Alessandro Magnasco, with whom he is documented as collaborating on a picture of 1705 (untraced). The quick paint handling and romantic mood, suffused with a brown tonality, are comparable with those of a pair of pictures in the National Gallery, Warsaw, considered by Martini (E. Martini, La Pittura Veneziana del Settecento, Venice, 1964, p. 102) to be amongst the earliest works by the artist. However, the present pair correspond more closely to a group of eight canvases in Dresden, acquired in Venice by Ventura Rossi for Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, in 1738. This group is similarly dated to the first years of the eighteenth century by Scarpa Sonino (A. Scarpa Sonino, Marco Ricci, Milan, 1991, pp. 120-1, nos. 25-32, plates 5-13).
We are grateful to Dottoressa Annalisa Scarpa Sonino for confirming the attribution on the basis of colour photographs.