Lot 41
  • 41

Sebastiano Ricci

300,000 - 500,000 USD
324,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Sebastiano Ricci
  • Venus in the forge of Vulcan
  • oil on canvas
  • 73 1/8  by 102 1/2  in.; 185.7 by 260.2 cm.


Probably Robert Adam and James Adam, before 1765:
Probably their sale, London, Prestage, 15 February 1765, lot 67;
Probably anonymous sale, London, Prestage, 22 January 1766, lot 46 (from a sale including paintings from the collection of John Bouttats);
Probably anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 4 February 1769, lot 53 (from a sale including paintings from the collection of Thomas Barrett);
James Wyatt;
George F. Carline, RBA (1855-1920), by 1909;
Thence by descent in the family;
With Agnew's, London;
From whom acquired by the present collector in 1987.


A. Scarpa, Sebastiano Ricci, Milan 2006, pp. 305-306, cat. no. 463, reproduced p. 473, fig. 248.

Catalogue Note

This impressive large-scale canvas by Sebastiano Ricci is almost certainly identifiable as the painting once belonging to the celebrated architects, Robert and James Adam (see Provenance). The painting was first published in 2006 by Annalisa Scarpa (see Literature) who believed it to depict Thetis in the Forge of Vulcan, an episode from Homer’s Iliad in which the goddess requests armor for her son, Achilles, for his battle against the Trojan hero, Hector. The prominence of Cupid in the dynamic composition, however, suggests it is more likely to represent “Venus going to Vulcan for the Arms of Aeneas,” as it is listed in the 1765 catalogue of the Adam property (see Provenance). The painting was one of a large group, including works by Guido Reni, Ludovico and Annibale Carracci and Nicholas Poussin, which according to the Prestage catalogue of 1765 were “Collected by them [the Adam brothers] during a Stay of eight Years in Italy, Fran­ce, and Holland.” The Adam Venus is listed in the Prestage catalogue as measuring 6 ft. 2 in. by 8 ft. 8 in. (74 by 104 in.), almost identical to the dimensions of the present canvas.

Like many British young men at the time, Robert and James Adam toured Europe, but only Robert completed the full Grand Tour and took up residence in Rome. His study of the antiquities there profoundly influenced the young architect and when he returned to London five years later he set up his own practice with his brother and developed his iconic Neoclassical “Adam Style.” The firm fell into dire financial straits when the brothers’ ambitious Adelphi project, a development in London from 1768 to 1772, left them bankrupt, and most likely led to the subsequent auction of their art and other property.