XVIII-cent. Italian Master Hangs in Provincial Offices

>> Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The friars have had a 38" x 44" ancient oval oil painting of St. Francis of Assisi contemplating Christ Crucified for almost 50 years now. It was first at St. Charles Borromeo in midtown St. Louis and since 1981 at St. Patrick's Friary in downtown St. Louis. When the friars left St. Louis in late 2008, the painting came to the new provincial administration building in Denver. For years a small plaque was attached to the painting's 5.5" oval Italian ornamented gold leaf jesso pattern frame. The plaque said the work was by the "renowned Mario Ricci, born in Italy 1673, died in Venice 1729." This led me on a wild goose chase, as I discovered there is no "renowned Mario Ricci." It seemed likely, however, that a mistake had been made, and the artist might actually be Marco Ricci, who was indeed an Italian master, born 1676, died 1729. But we really had no proof as to whom the artist was, and all that I had discovered thus far showed the Marco Ricci was a landscape painter.

Late at night, May 11, while sorting through a large amount of otherwise rather pedestrian paper, also brought from St. Louis, I hit the jackpot. In the first of three letters, one written in March of 1949, Prov. Cav. C. Hautman, director of the Art Gallery of the National Association of Artists in Florence, Italy, authenticated the painting as being by Marco Ricci. It further noted that other studies of St. Paul and St. Francis by Ricci were in a museum in Bordeaux, France. The other two letters, dated 14 May 1961, were from W. M. McCaughen of McCaughen and Associations, an art restoration and appraisal service, indicating that Arthur J. Meier of Richmond Heights was the donor and Fr. Joseph Adams, O.F.M.Cap., on behalf of the Capuchins, was the recipient of the painting.

Further study revealed that Marco Ricci, while primarily a landscape painter, also painted biblical, mythological and historical subjects. His work is found in major museums all over Europe, as well as in Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Canberra, etc.


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