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Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-Venice 1730)

Landscape with an Allegorical Monument to Newton dated 1728

Tempera on leather | 31.8 x 45.5 cm | RCIN 400585

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The focus of this caprice landscape is the marble monument to the scientist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, which is seen at the left. Newton reclines atop a sarcophagus which is supported by a figure of Time. At the left is seated History or Fame, holding a book and pen. At the right is a standing female figure with wings on her head, probably symbolising scientific and mathematical knowledge. Various figures, some in modern and others in classical dress, stand and sit before the monument. One standing figure points to the inscription on the monument which reads: NON OMNIS MORIR. / MDCCXXVIII. The inscription is a quotation from Horace ('Odes', Book III, no. 30, line 6) which translates as: 'I shall not wholly die' (the last word should read 'moriar'). Marco and Sebastiano Ricci had previously collaborated in painting two of the 'Tombs' in the series 'Tombeaux des Princes' which were commissioned from a variety of Italian painters by Owen MacSwiney (although the 'Tomb' of Newton in this series was painted by Domenico and Giuseppe Valeriani and Pittoni). The design of the monument in this work is noticeably less fantastic and elaborate than the 'Tombs', and is not far in concept from similar designs for monuments by Rysbrack. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is buried in Westminster Abbey, where his monument was completed in 1731 on William Kent's design, with subtle changes by Rysbrack. It is thought likely that this painting was commissioned by Consul Joseph Smith, who had a strong interest in Newton's theories and was in touch with Kent. Two drawings in the royal collection, one by Marco and one by Sebastiano Ricci, are related to this composition. The painting is one of seven in the royal collection from an original group twenty-four from the collections of Joseph Smith and Anton Maria Zanetti which were reproduced in etchings by Davide Fossati in 1743 (this image formed pl. xxiv). All are similar in size and format, and all remain in their early eighteenth-century Venetian carved and gilt frames.