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Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-Venice 1730)

Farinelli in walking dress c.1729-30

Pen and ink | 31.8 x 11.8 cm | RCIN 907293

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A pen and ink caricature of a full-length standing male figure in walking dress, identified with the Italian castrato singer Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi (1705-85), known as 'Farinelli'.

The drawing belongs to an album of operatic caricatures mainly by Marco Ricci and Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder, an intact album from the library of Joseph Smith. Zanetti and another Venetian collector, Francesco Algarotti, owned similar albums, with many of the caricatures copied or traced, with identifying inscriptions. Zanetti's album is now in the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, and Algarotti's belongs to Albert Gellman and is in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Opera was an important part of Venetian society and culture, and such caricatures were circulated among friends and collectors for light-hearted amusement.

Farinelli trained in Naples, where he was funded by two rich lawyers, the Farina brothers (possibly the source for his stage name). He was soon in great demand across Europe, performing in Rome, Vienna, Bologna and Munich in the 1720s. This drawing probably records Farinelli when he appeared at the theatre of San Grisostomo in Venice in 1729-30, performing the roles of Arbace in Catone in Utica and Mirteo in Semiramide Riconosciuta. A copy or tracing of the present drawing is in the Algarotti-Gellman album, and a similar drawing of the singer, annotated 'Farinello in abito da Galla' [Farinello in walking dress] is in the Zanetti album in the Fondazione Cini.