Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Marco Ricci was the nephew of the painter Sebastiano Ricci, with whom he collaborated and who may have been his first teacher, although it has also been suggested that he studied with a certain landscape painter called “Perugino”, who may be Antonio Francesco Peruzzini, an artist based in Ancona. There are still considerable gaps in our knowledge of the life and work of Marco Ricci despite the important monographs on the artist such as the one by Annalisa Scarpa Sonino, the numerous articles published during the course of the 20th century, and the exhibitions on Ricci, including the one held in Bassano del Grappa in 1963 and the one in Belluno in 1993 in which his work was set alongside that of other landscapes painters from the Veneto. The chronology of Ricci’s paintings remains difficult to establish due to the few dated works by the artist and to a style that does not reveal a clear development, particularly in his earliest works. Marco Ricci also worked as a designer and painter of sets in London theatres alongside Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, travelling to the city on the invitation of the Duke of Manchester and living there between 1708 and 1710. He returned to Italy with his uncle Sebastiano in the winter of 1711 to 1712. In 1716 he is documented in Venice as a theatrical set designer.
One of the most interesting areas within Ricci’s work is his activity as a landscape painter, a genre in which he opened up new directions as the creator of a Venetian school. Ricci was an important reference point for artists including Giuseppe Zaïs, Francesco Zuccarelli, Canaletto and Francesco Guardi.
Landscape with a Storm entered the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1977. Two reports were commissioned on the painting at the time it was purchased, one by Luigi Salerno and the other by Rudolfo Pallucchini. The canvas, which has a rare signature and date on a rock on the right, was studied in depth by Roberto Contini. It falls within Ricci’s early period when the artist was barely twenty-five but it already reveals aspects that would be of interest to his later landscape painting such as the different effects and phenomena of the weather, in this case a storm, as well as the idea of the danger of woods to travellers and peasants. It has been suggested that this painting was influenced by the work of Pieter Mulier both with regard to its composition and to the effects of light that Ricci achieves in the sky. The light illuminates important elements such as the tree struck by lightening on the right and the group of travellers surprised by the storm in a clearing on the outskirts of a city. Ricci achieves fine atmospheric effects such as the effect of the wind on the tree on the left with its branches and leaves buffeted by the gale, as are the small figures. The gusts of wind and bursts of rain are accurately and finely described, as are their effects on the landscape as the light filters through the clouds. Contini considered this canvas an important reference point for Ricci’s subsequent output.