Lot 21
  • 21

Sebastiano Ricci

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Sebastiano Ricci
  • The Holy Family with the infant Saint John the Baptist in a landscape
  • oil on canvas, in a fine English carved and gilt wood frame


William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790–1858), Chiswick House, London, where it hung in the East Saloon by 1845 and in the West Ante Room by 1863;
Removed from Chiswick House, probably in 1892, and thence by descent at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, where it is recorded in 1933 (as Andrea Schiavone);
Thence by descent to Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire (1920–2004);
The Chatsworth Collection Sale, London, Christie's, 27 June 1958, lot 14 (as Ricci), for £6,500 to Leggatt;
With Leggatt Bros., London;
By whom sold to Kenneth William James Mackay, 3rd Earl of Inchcape (1917–1994) by 1961;
By whom sold London, Christie's, 1 July 1966, lot 55, for £6,800 to Leggatt;
With Leggatt Bros., London;
By whom sold to Bobby Wills (1918–2004), Farmington Lodge, Gloucestershire;
His (deceased) sale, London, Sotheby’s, 5 July 2005, lot 19;
When acquired by the present owner.


London, Leggatt Bros., The Inchcape Collection, 1961, no. 31. 


T. Faulkner, History of Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, London 1845, p. 402, as hanging in the East Saloon at Chiswick House (as Andrea Schiavone, 'a beautiful picture');
F. Thompson, Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of the Duke of Devonshire, MS. typescript 1933, inv. no. 617 (as Andrea Schiavone);
J. Daniels, Sebastiano Ricci, Hove 1976, p. 27, cat. no. 88, reproduced fig. 193 (as Sebastiano Ricci);
J. Daniels, L'opera completa di Sebastiano Ricci, Milan 1976, p. 114, cat. no. 287, reproduced p. 113, fig. 287 (as Sebastiano Ricci);
A. Scarpa, Sebastiano Ricci, Milan 2006, p. 222, cat. no. 225, reproduced p. 536, figure 386.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Sebastiano Ricci. The Holy Family with the Infant St John the Baptist in a Landscape. This painting has a strong recent lining, which has preserved the vividly Venetian texture and brushwork, from the strong weave of the canvas to the rich depths of colour and impasto. Under ultra violet light there are just a few minute surface touches on the head of the Madonna and of the Child and occasionally elsewhere from a recent very light cleaning and revarnishing. In the distant past there appears to have been an old damage in the upper background, just behind and at upper left of the Madonna's head, in the tree trunk where now a rather clotted patch of early repaint can be seen in a raking light. This can just be caught under UV and seems to trail narrowly across the upper sky towards the upper right edge. A brief horizontal (2-3inches) of similar clotted old repaint is just visible lower down the right edge just above the basket near St. Joseph. However these old incidental repairs have not affected the surrounding paint, which remains beautifully pure and complete throughout the figures, the still life in the foreground and the magnificently intact drapery and landscape elsewhere. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Sebastiano Ricci’s painterly brilliance, which owes much to his Venetian forerunners, was recognised by collectors and connoisseurs across Europe. Demand for his work was strengthened by his travels both within and outside Italy. Ricci’s success in England, where he worked between 1712 and 1716, was considerable. For his first English patron, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694–1753), he painted a number of pictures, including the monumental canvases of mythological subjects that are still at Burlington House today (now the Royal Academy of Arts, London). Indeed it is not impossible that this painting may have been commissioned by Lord Burlington. George Vertue, who visited Chiswick with Lord Burlington in 1734 recorded 'many rooms with pictures – finely adorn'd. Statues. Busts. &c. Seb Ricchi' and three large overmantels depicting Venus and Cupid, Bacchus and Ariadne and Diana and Endymion remain there today. Although recorded at Chiswick House in the nineteenth century, this painting does not however appear among any records of the pictures originally painted by Ricci for the house.

Attributed to Andrea Schiavone by Faulkner (see under Literature, 1845), and considered by Gustav Glück to be possibly by Sir Anthony van Dyck after Titian (1929), the painting was first identified as a work by Ricci by Otto Benesch (1939), a view subsequently endorsed by Ellis Waterhouse (1948), who believed it to be by Ricci after a Titian design (information recorded in the manuscript inventory of the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth).

This intimate scene depicting The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape was tentatively identified by Daniels as The Rest on the Flight into Egypt but, given that the Christ Child is older and the Baptist is also present, it might represent what is often called 'The Return from Egypt'. The painting is quintessentially Venetian in character and Ricci has had particular recourse to Titian's pastoral religious scenes. Not only is the composition, setting and iconography very Titian-like but so is the rounded facial type of the Madonna: compare, for example, that in Titian's Madonna and Child with Saint Catherine and the Infant Baptist of circa 1530 in the National Gallery, London.1

The painting's indebtedness to Titian may have been at the behest of the patron who commissioned the work and this, together with the fact that it is in a fine English 18th-century carved and gilt wood frame, lends support to the hypothesis that the picture was executed for an English patron. Whether it was Lord Burlington who commissioned the painting – the second Christie's sale catalogue claims as much – must remain an open question. In any event it is recorded as hanging in the East Saloon at Chiswick House by 1845, and in the West Ante Room in 1863. It was probably removed from there in 1892 and is recorded at Chatsworth in 1933. By 1939 The Holy Family was hanging on the walls of the Red Velvet Room, which must have suited the warm tones of the painting particularly well.

A reduced replica, on paper, attributed to Joseph Goupy by Daniels, is in a private collection, Milan. 


1.  See H. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, vol. I, The Religious Paintings, London 1969, fig. 35.