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Title Bacchus and Ariadne
Collection English Heritage (Chiswick House)
Artist Ricci, Sebastiano (Italian painter and draftsman, 1659-1734)
Date Earliest about 1713
Date Latest about 1713
Description The Bacchus and Ariadne by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) at Chiswick House is one of three paintings commissioned by Lord Burlington for his new home, from the Venetian artist during his brief residency in London from 1711/12-1716. These works are among the artist's finest achievements. Their classical style is characterised by simplified linear tension in the modelling, a bright to warm palette and a facility for technical virtuosity. In the Chiswick Bacchus and Ariadne the harmonious results of Ricci's style - influenced by Veronese, the Carracci and Luca Giordano - are evident in the classically structured, animated composition and palette. Following Ovid's description of this Arcadian episode in the Metamorphoses, Ricci sets the protagonists of his scene on a beach of the Greek island of Naxos. Painted in clear warm tones Ricci represents the moment of their marriage following their reunion. Ariadne, partially draped, holds out her hand for Bacchus to place the wedding ring on her finger, he wears a red mantle and a leopard skin that alludes to his journey to the east, as well as his usual attribute a wreath of vine leaves. An attendant figure wearing a wreath of white roses (emblematic of purity) and carrying a flaming torch (symbolic of ardent love) alludes to the quality of the protagonist's union. Above Ariadne's head, a cupid holds a crown of stars alluding to the constellation that Bacchus was to name after his bride. Like Ricci's other mythological paintings for Lord Burlington at Chiswick this picture celebrates classically idealised love. The classicising frame for this painting was designed by William Kent for the work's display in Chiswick House. It is prominently dated 1729.
Current Accession Number 88003009
Former Accession Number 150
Subject mythology (Bacchus and Ariadne)
Measurements 189 x 104 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by Brentford and Chiswick Council, by Deed of Gift to the Ministry of Works 1954.
Provenance Painted about 1713 for Lord Burlington and installed at Chiswick House 1729; probably seen there by Vertue in 1734, 'many rooms with pictures ... finely adorn'd...Seb. Ricci'; about 1740, 1753, 1761 recorded in the Red Velvet Room; 1845 in the West Saloon; Devonshire Collection 1753, remaining at Chiswick when other pictures were removed to Chatsworth in 1892; Sold to Brentford and Chiswick Council in 1928.
Publications Dodsley, R. & J.,London and its Environs Described, London, 1761, pp. 112-123, p. 117 as 'Bacchus and Ariadne, Sebastiano Ricci'; Faulkner, T., The History and Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick. Interspersed with Biographical notices, London, 1845, pp. 385-438, p. 401 as 'Bacchus and Ariadne - S. Ricci. An upright picture, the figures are large as life. Bacchus is about placing a ring on the finger of Ariadne and Cupid is descending with a wreath'; 'Vertue Notebooks', Walpole Society, III, p. 73; Croft-Murray, E., Decorative Painting in England, II, 1970, p. 266; Bergamini, G., Sebastiano Ricci, exhib. cat., Milan, 1989, ill. p. 36.
Notes Sebastiano Ricci was the leading exponent in the revival of Venetian painting at the outset of the eighteenth century. He was first influenced by Federico Cervelli, his master, whose use of strong colour introduced him to the great sixteenth-century Venetian colourists, particularly of Veronese and to his seventeenth-century follower, Luca Giordano who was in Venice for the second time in 1667. After 1681 Ricci travelled throughout Italy, notably spending time in Bologna, Parma and Rome where he discovered the works of the Carracci, Reni and Pietro da Cortona as well as of Parmigianino and Correggio - all of whom were to provide him with invaluable lessons in the attainment of a Classical style characterised by a simplified linear tension in the modelling, a bright to warm palette and a facility for technical virtuosity. In 1695 Ricci left Rome returning to Venice via Florence, Bologna, Modena and Milan where he fulfilled a series of impressive commissions. In 1702 he was called to Vienna and following his return to Venice he was called again to Florence in 1706-7, before leaving Venice again in 1711 to travel to England with his nephew Marco Ricci. On his return to Venice he may have travelled through Holland and he stayed in Paris. He became a member of the French Académie Royale in 1716 and was admitted to the Accademia Clementina in Bologna in 1723. He lived the last eighteen years of his life in Venice supplying works to patrons throughout Europe
Rights Owner Copyright English Heritage
Author Francesco Nevola




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