He was born at Gaeta, then part of the Kingdom of Naples, and apprenticed in Naples under Francesco Solimena. In 1706, along with his brother Giovanni, who acted as his assistant, he settled at Rome, where for several years he worked in chalk only, to improve his drawing. He was patronized by the Cardinal Ottoboni, who introduced him to Clement XI, who commissioned a well-received Jeremiah painted for the church of St. John Lateran. Conca was knighted by the pope. He collaborated with Carlo Maratta in the Coronation of Santa Cecilia in the namesake's church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (1721–24). He was elected in 1718 to the Accademia di San Luca and its director in 1729-1731 and 1739-1741. His painting was strongly influenced by the Baroque painter Luca Giordano. Among Conca's pupils were Pompeo Battoni, Andrea Casali, Placido Campoli, Corrado Giaquinto, Gaetano Lapis, Salvatore Monosilio, Literio Paladini, Francesco Preziao, Rosalba Maria Salvioni, Gasparo Serenari, and Agostino Masucci,
He received widespread official acclaim and patronage. He worked for a time for the Savoy family in Turin on the Oratory of San Filippo and Santa Teresa, in the Venaria (1721–1725), for Basilica di Superga (1726), and Royal Palace (1733). He painted frescoes of Probatica, or Pool of Siloam, in the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala (hospital) of Siena. In Genoa, he painted large allegorical canvases of the Palazzo Lomellini-Doria (1738–1740).
In 1739, he published a guide to painting: Ammonimenti (or Admonishments), which blended moralistic advice with technique. He returned to Naples in 1752, and enjoyed the royal patronage of Charles III. His studio was prodigious and he painted frescoes for the Church of Santa Chiara (1752–1754), five canvases for the Chapel in Caserta Palace (now lost), as well as many others including for the Benedictines of Aversa (1761), a History of Saint Francis of Paola for the Sanctuary of Saint Maria di Pozzano of Castellammare di Stabia (1762–1763), and many other altarpieces. He painted till late in life.
Among the works that reflect his late-Baroque style are paintings such as The Vision of Aeneas in the Elysian Fields (c. 1735/1740); the scene is crowded with mythologic and classical figures, adrift in academic quotation, and enveloped by a world of overwrought with allegory. Dancing or flying putti proliferate. The landscape is often a billowing cloud. Even in a more intimate scene such as Rinaldo & Armida, instead of depicting the focused scene between two lovers, love itself has to be allegorized as an intruding, hovering cupid. Similarly, the somber introspection of the moment recounted by Christ at the Garden of Gesthmane is afflicted with a cascade of angels. It is an mannerist Baroque, not its distilled apotheosis, but a distanced elaboration from its roots in Carracci and Cortona.
- *Hobbes, James R. (1849). Picture collector's manual adapted to the professional man, and the amateur. T&W Boone, 29 Bond Street; Digitized by Googlebooks. p. 57.
- Vision of Aeneas in the Elysian Fields
- Rinaldo and Armida at St. Louis Museum of Art.
- Christ at the Garden of Gesthemane at Vactican pinacoteca.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sebastiano Conca". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Media related to Sebastiano Conca at Wikimedia Commons