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Return of the Prodigal Son

circa 1720
18th century
57 cm x 50.8 cm (22 7/16 in. x 20 in.)

Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno, Italy, 1659 - 1734, Venice, Italy) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Accession Number: 2017.1340

In a parable (Luke 15:11-32) Christ told of the younger son of a rich man who demanded his share of the patrimony, squandered it, and found himself in misery. Repenting, he returned to his father, who welcomed him back, telling the older brother, “to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found." Combining a critique of attachment to material well-being, with an affirmation of forgiveness and an allusion to eternal life, the culminating scene was a frequent subject of Baroque painting.

This interpretation is a splendid example of Ricci’s mature style. The returning son kneels upon the threshold while the father extends open arms. While its small scale and rich touch might suggest a preparatory study, its compositional equilibration and regular finish indicate a completed work. Newly evident and impressive following conservation in 2001 are the clear tonality revived from Veronese, the pronounced chiaroscuro inspired by contemporary Bolognese painters, and the dramatic sweep despite its size.

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