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Overview

Shortly before 1722, Owen McSwiny, a bankrupt Irishman who had settled in Italy to escape his creditors, commissioned twenty-four large canvases from prominent Venetian and Bolognese painters as a commercial venture. By profession a theater impresario, he concocted this series of allegorical monuments commemorating recently deceased British monarchs and aristocrats, hoping that their wealthy heirs might purchase the works. McSwiny's "Tombs," as they came to be called, proved to be unintelligible; no one, not even the artists who painted them, ever had a clear notion of what the pictures represented.

This ornate and fanciful memorial, for example, alludes only vaguely to the subject's naval career. The admiral himself does not appear, nor does the shield in the right foreground bear his exact coat-of-arms. Only the fountain hints at the maritime theme with its ancient ships' prows and rudders, statues of tritons riding dolphins, and a bas-relief of Neptune, god of the sea.

The Shovell canvas is a collaboration by Marco Ricci, who contributed the picturesque landscape and theatrical architecture, and his uncle Sebastiano Ricci, who painted the figures and statuary. The two Riccis' use of fluffy textures and decorative colors marks the emerging rococo style.

Inscription

lower left on stone: B. / M. RICCI / Faciebant (Bastianoand Marco Ricci made it)

Provenance

Commissioned by Owen McSwiny for Charles Lennox, 2d duke of Richmond [1701-1750], Goodwood, Sussex, and Somerset House, London, by 1726; by descent to Charles Lennox, 4th duke of Richmond [1764-1819]; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 26 March 1814, no. 48); bought by P. Hill.[1] Sir Richard Colthurst, Cork, Ireland. (David M. Koetser Gallery, New York, London, and Zurich);[2] purchased 1953 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1994
The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice, 1994-1995, no. 37 (London and Washington), no. 7 (Venice), repro.
Bibliography
1926
Voss, Hermann. "Studien zur venezianischen Vedutenmalerei des 18. Jahrhunderts." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft (1926): 37.
1932
Arslan, Wart. "Appunti su Magnasco, Sebastiano e Marco Ricci." Bollettino d'Arte 26 (1932): 217-218.
1955
Pallucchini, Rodolfo. "Studi Ricceschi (II) Contributo a Marco." Arte Veneta 9 (1955): 192, 194-196, fig. 225.
1956
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 148-151, no. 58, repro.
1957
Blunt, Anthony, and Edward Croft-Murray. Venetian Drawings of the XVII & XVIII Centuries at Windsor Castle. London, 1957: 31.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 231, repro.
1960
Pallucchini 1960, 40, fig. 100.
1961
Walker, John, Guy Emerson, and Charles Seymour. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961:, 158, repro. pl. 150, color repro. pl. 151
1962
Boyce, Benjamin. "Baroque into Satire: Pope's Frontispiece for the 'Essay on Man'." Criticism 4 (1962): 23, 25, fig. 10.
1962
Croft-Murray, Edward. Decorative Painting in England 1587-1837. 2 vols. London, 1962; Feltham, 1970: 2:24, 241, no. 21.
1963
Haskell, Francis. Patrons and Painters. London, 1963: 289 (2nd ed., 1985).
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 115.
1967
Burda, Hubert. Die Ruine in den Bildern Hubert Roberts. Munich, 1967: 35.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 102, repro.
1973
Jaffé, Michael. European Fame of Sir Isaac Newton. Exh. cat. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1973: 14.
1973
Kaufmann, C. M. Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings. 2 vols. London, 1973: 1:239.
1973
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XVI-XVIII Century. London, 1973: 131-133, fig. 259-260.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 306, repro.
1976
Daniels, Jeffery. L'opera completa di Sebastiano Ricci. Milan, 1976: 127, no. 426, repro.
1976
Daniels, Jeffery. Sebastiano Ricci. Hove, 1976: 153-154, no. 531, fig. 55.
1976
Daniels, Jeffery. "Sebastiano Ricci in England." Atti del Congress internazionale di studi su Sebastiano Ricci e il suo tempo. Milan, 1976.
1976
Mazza, Barbara. "La viecenda dei 'Tombeaux des Princes': Matrici, storia e fortuna della serie Swiny tra Bologna e Venezia." Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell'Arte 10 (1976): 90-91, no. 3, fig. 7.
1978
Works by Sebastiano Ricci from British Collections. Exh. cat. P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., London, 1978: unpaginated, no. 21, fig. 21a.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:402-406, II:pl. 286, 286A.
1983
Knox, George. "The Tombs of Famous Englishmen as Described in the Letters of Owen McSwiny to the Duke of Richmond." Arte Veneta 27 (1983): 231, no. 4.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 345, no 473, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 352, repro.
1991
Adolphs, Volker. "Der Impressario als Auftraggeber. Owen McSwiny und die 'Tombeaux des Princes grand capitaines et autres illustres." In Venedigs Ruhm im Norden. Exh. cat. (2 venues). Hannover, 1991: 43, 48-49, 51, fig. 13.
1991
Scarpa Sonino, Annalisa. Marco Ricci. Milan, 1991: 34, 137, no. 112, fig. 312, color pl. 33.
1992
Knox, George. Giovanni Piazzetta 1682-1754. Oxford, 1992: 176, fig. 125.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 114, repro. (not in 1995 rev. ed.).
1994
The Glory of Venice. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice; Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, 1994-1995: 489, cat. 37, color repro. 110.
1996
De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 237-242, color repro. 239.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 244-245, no. 196, color repro.
Technical Summary

The support is a gauzelike fabric. The reddish brown ground shows through in areas of abrasion and in passages where it was used as shading. Over the uniform ground layer are additional layers, toned to conform with the related paint layer. For example, a light-toned layer is under the sky, a darker tone is under the foreground, and a yellow layer is under the shield. First the background was painted, using dark brown washes; next the sky, architecture, and foreground were added, leaving reserves for the subsequent execution of the sculptural and "live" figures. The exactness of these reserves suggests that the placement and poses of the figures had been established in advance. The tonal layers, contour strokes, and highlights were added last. The consistency of paint in the nonfigural sections varies from thin in the foreground to low impasto in the sky and architecture, and tends to be applied with blended strokes. The figures are painted with thick, fluid, unblended strokes. Pentimenti appear throughout the architecture, the sculptures, and in the trees. X-radiographs and infrared photographs reveal three figures in the foreground, at the bottom of the fountain, which were brought to a finished state and then painted out by the artist.

The original tacking margins have been opened and incorporated into the painted surface. Cusping appears along all but the top edge. The paint surface at the upper corners has darkened due to an optical effect of the dark ground showing through. The painting has extensive traction cracks, overall abrasion, and scattered losses. The painting was relined in 1955 by Mario Modestini. Discolored varnish was removed and the painting was restored during the 1955 treatment and, most recently, in 1994 by Ann Hoenigswald.