RICCI, Marco
(b. 1676, Belluno, d. 1730, Venezia)

Landscape with River and Figures

c. 1720
Oil on canvas, 136 x 197 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

This picture, restored in 1965, is the counterpart of the painting Landscape with Watering Horses. Both are fairly well-known works, dating from about 1720. In the background of the latter the valley of the River Piave is depicted. Generally, this picture is considered to be one of Marco Ricci's masterpieces.

The artist had a harassed life of hardship trailing off to a sad end, if the chroniclers — rather than the critics — are to be believed. Apprenticed to his uncle Sebastiano, he savoured the ferment of new stirrings in the world of Venetian art. It brought forth in him a narrative streak in what was just then fairly taking over the Venetian art scene—landscape painting. Drinking in the Flemish Tempesta's landscapes, Magnasco's vibrant artistry, all that he saw and assimilated on his frequent travels alone and with his uncle he converted, in an intense and many-sided creative zeal, into forms all his own. Pallucchini and Valcanover (1951, 1955) admit "the difficulty, to this day, of reconstructing Marco Ricci's art, in view of the total lack of data". Though Goering's chronology had been lengthy and cumbersome enough, Ivanoff (Emporium, 1948) included in it this picture, too, for he considered it the beginning of a trend leading from the chiaroscuro style of the Baroque towards the colourful light effects of the eighteenth century. Later, in 1957, Pallucchini stated that these light effects were inevitable in view of Ricci's links with the countryside.

The historian Zanetti mentioned that like a "pilgrim", Ricci used to return to the region of Belluno, where he found ideas for his painting and matured his new techniques. The picture itself portrays the sense of the place by the unbroken, atmospheric flow of light, which makes the chiaroscuro verticals of the group of trees even more striking. This new susceptibility was nothing more than a novel approach to reality, which sprung out of the shadow of the rhetoric which had preceded it. It almost seems as if the light itself enjoyed setting off the figures in the foreground while harmonically inundating the background. Yes, here lies a new pictorial approach.

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