The angel of Jacob purifies Isaiah's lips with fire
Elijah sends down fire from the sky on the victim in the presence of the people
Both subjects are taken from the Old Testament. The first, (Isaiah 6) narrate the story of the prophet, who complained of having his lips impure, was healed by a seraph who touched him with a burning lard caught on an altar; the angel said, "Behold, this touched your lips, your iniquity is taken away, and your sin atoned." Fidelity to the biblical text is complete, except that the angel has two wings instead of the six regulations. The other (Kings, II, 1) reports that Ahaziah, guilty of having sought healing from Baal-Zebub, god of Ekron, rather than from God, was punished by Elijah who sent down fire from heaven to punish the captain and fifty men sent by Achazia. In this case freedom from the text is more important, indeed the prophet is not wearing a skin with a leather belt around the flanks. The figure of the angel is inserted pointing the right hand down indicating the fire of a sacrifice and the left upwards alluding to the future celestial flames.
The two leaves are obviously part of the same set: the compositions are almost in counterpart, with the human figures kneeling in the center, the celestial closing the upper part and the massive base on the left side with above, the fire of healing and punishment. Both are also linked iconographically because it is in both of a divine intervention done using fire.
The drawings are obviously models for both sides of a bezel interrupted by a central window and find a close parallel with a sheet of the artist of the same format published by the author: Azaria preaches King Osias, New York , coll. part.), modello for the mosaic of a telescope of the chapel of the choir of Saint Pierre (1720-21), (fig.3). The ratios are obvious because of the format (both have the same setback at the top of the rectilinear side) as well as for stylistic criteria. We can therefore hypothesize that they too are projects for mosaics in a chapel of Saint Peter, perhaps the same as that where we find today the story of Azariah who with his during (Moses prayed supported by Aaron) would have come to replace another project, but we have no document relating to these two hypotheses.
Dating back to the third decade of the eighteenth century, the exposed drawings belong to the first phase of the artist's activity, strongly influenced by the lessons of Father Michelangelo (1654-1715), with whom he even had to collaborate, until 'when he died. They offer flashy and eventful effects, still influenced by Giacinto Brandi, but rather diluted by a chiaroscuro to the Trevisani, (to whom the artist was related by having married the niece Laura in 1717).
Subsequently, Ricciolini will show some attention to proto-neoclassical reforms, to the Masucci, but now his style is decidedly aligned with the Roman Barocchetto, whose two drawings can be considered as a fairly representative example.
Effectively highlighted by frequent feather dashes, animated by the metering of the penumbra and dark shadows, the figures fit and articulate cleverly in inconvenient spaces; the whole appears as a single fluid and eventful magma that forms wings, clothes, bodies, with extreme vitality. A remarkable quality therefore, which helps to place the Ricciolini draftsman at a higher level than the painter Ricciolini.
(fig.1) Niccolò Ricciolini, Azaria preaches King Osias, New York, coll. Part.