Washington, D.C. auctioneers Sloans & Kenyon found this English period work by the Italian Baroque painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) in the basement of a local home.
Mary Magdalene Anointing the Feet of Christ is signed
and dated lower right 1713 - at which time Ricci was in England
(from 1712 to 1717), seeking large-scale commissions for public and
private buildings. Measuring a diminutive 22in x 20in (55 x 50cm),
it was probably painted as a sketch to present to a patron.
Another version of this composition (previously at Mortlake
Parish Church, London) survives at the Kunsthaus, Zurich while the
artist produced a later treatment of the subject for Consul Joseph
Smith, a painting, now in the Royal Collection at Hampton
The new discovery - probably acquired by the vendor's family at
one of the many local auctions and estate sales they attended - is
thought to be the painting recorded as lost in the catalogue
raisonné that was once in the collection of Henry Hoare at
Stourhead, Wiltshire. It is mentioned by Horace Walpole in 1762 and
listed in inventories in 1785.
The picture had been relined, received some restoration and a
heavy, uneven varnish obscured some of its finer qualities. Sloans
& Kenyon gave it a modest $10,000-$15,000 estimate.
On April 26, 19 telephone bidders (including dealers from
London, Monaco, Holland, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France)
competed for a full seven minutes up to $145,000 (£103,500) plus
19.5 per cent buyer's premium.
The buyer was identified only as a man from the American East