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Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659-Venice 1734)

The Adoration of the King 1726

Pen and ink and wash | 33.0 x 31.2 cm | RCIN 907098

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A drawing depicting the seated Virgin with the Christ Child and St Joseph on the left, two kneeling Maji kneeling in the centre and a third standing on the right wearing a turban. This drawing is one of the 16 studies for the whole composition in Hampton Court. This drawing comes from an album of 211 drawings by Sebastiano Ricci, acquired by George III with the collection of Joseph Smith. After travelling widely in Europe, for most of Sebastiano’s last two decades he was based in Venice, during which time he became a friend of Smith. The majority of the drawings in Smith’s album thus date from the latter part of Ricci’s career, and include forty-one drawings for paintings also in Smith’s collection. The present drawing is one of sixteen for The Adoration of the Magi, also in the Royal Collection. According to the Latin inscription on the title page of the volume, Smith considered that Sebastiano Ricci was the greatest painter of his time. The composition of the drawing agrees in its broad outlines with that of the painting, though there are many differences of detail. The poses of only the Madonna and Child, St Joseph and the kneeling magus correspond closely with those as painted, and the background architecture (painted by Sebastiano’s nephew Marco) was to be lowered in height, suggesting an open-air scene rather than the enclosed ruins seen here. The drawings by Sebastiano in Smith’s album (and those by the sixteenth-century painter Giovanni Ambrogio Figino in another album from Smith’s collection, also preserved intact in the Royal Library) are mounted with wash-and-line borders in the style more commonly associated with Smith’s friend, the collector Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder (1680-1767), as can be seen for example in a second album of drawings by Sebastiano, now in the Accademia in Venice, from Zanetti’s collection. Further, many of the finishing tools used to decorate the bindings are common to the Zanetti and the Smith volumes, and it must be concluded that both collectors had their albums made up by the same bindery in Venice. Inscribed on the verso No. 2. / JS. Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004