He was born in Udine on 14 or 15 October 1635 (baptized on the 15th), educated and trained under the guidance of his father Valentino and the godfather Girolamo Lugaro, he moved from a young age to Venice where, after a period of specialization with Guercino in Bologna, he began his career studying the manner of Paolo Veronese, quickly becoming one of his greatest connoisseurs.
The synthesis of the techniques of Cinquecento, of the impulse given by naturalists and of the contemporary taste of the "tenebrosi" was addressed by Bombelli in the sector in which he specialized most, namely portraiture. Not to underestimate his stay in Florentine, during which he was able to appreciate the technique of Sustermans.
His first surviving work dates back to 1665, it is the Portrait of Benedetto Mangilli (Civici Musei, Galleria d'Arte Antica, Udine), a painting that shows influences from Bernardo Strozzi.
Among the peculiar characteristics of his works emerge vitality, expressiveness and communicability, both in the portraits anchored to the tradition Baroque like the Polo Querini of 1684 (Querini Stampalia Foundation, Venice) and in the most simplified ones. His characters emerge from the shadows although described to the smallest detail, showy with their showy and festive attires.
Del 1675 is the first Self-portrait (Civici Musei, Galleria d'Arte Antica, Udine), characterized by a marked introspective vein and free from the embellishments typical of the official portrait which had made it famous to Venice.
One of his many followers was Fra' Galgario (Giuseppe Vittore Ghislandi) who spent a decade in Venice and had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Bombelli. For a time he also studied in his workshop a young man Anton Domenico Gabbiani, who learned much from Bombelli (see his first portraits, like those of the Musicians of the court of the Grand Prince Ferdinando de 'Medici at the Galleria dell'Accademia); the two artists remained on excellent terms throughout their lives, as demonstrated by a beautiful letter from Bombelli addressed to the former student in 1716. He was also the master of Domenico and Giovanni Battista Parodi, sons of the Genoese sculptor Filippo Parodi, a personal friend of the friulian painter; Bombelli's fame as a skilled portrait painter was known internationally, so much so that one of his pupils was Johann Gottfried Tannauer, famous painter and miniaturist at the court of Tsar Peter the Great of Russia. He was also very fond of friendship and affection with the fellow Luca Carlevarijs and with the young and promising Rosalba Carriera, of whom he painted an intense portrait on the occasion of his appointment to Academia di San Luca. His portraiture style later also influenced other painters, including Alessandro Longhi and Niccolò Cassana.
Bombelli had a half brother, Raffaele, also a painter, less well known than Sebastiano and active in the Friuli area.
The artist also traveled and worked abroad, for example in Bavaria, where he portrayed the Elector Ferdinand Maria of Bavaria, his wife Enrichetta Adelaide di Savoia, the children Maria Anna Vittoria of Bavaria, Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, Joseph Clement of Bavaria and his brother Maximilian Philip Jerome of Bavaria, to Innsbruch portraying the Archduchess Anna de 'Medici and the daughters Claudia Felicita of Austria (future emperor's Leopold I second wife) and Mary Magdalene, for the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, as well as Vienna where he portrayed the emperor Leopold I of Habsburg and the couple Joseph I of Habsburg and Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg, was also active in Florence, Mantua and Parma and lent his service to some cardinals. . His atelier in Venice was very famous and frequented by important personalities passing through Venice, in particular during Carnival: on this occasion he portrayed the prince in 1692 Frederick of Denmark (future king Frederick IV).
Sebastiano Bombelli was also an art expert: being the greatest connoisseur of Paolo Veronese, he was often contacted to verify the authenticity of works that surfaced on the market. Concurrently with this activity, Bombelli was also a restorer. Unfortunately, to give new brilliance to ancient artworks, he used paints and lacquers that - with the passing of time - oxidized blackening the paint film. Various sources, contemporary and non-contemporary, refer to this information, in particular Lanzi. His mastery of the use of colors, however, was much appreciated, to the extent that he was the dedicatee of the text Nuovo plico d'ogni sorte di tinture by Gallipido Tallier - published in 1704 - and the painter was addressed with these words «... knowing the world the virtue, which she generally possesses of coloring and painting; And I am going to say, that the opre of his penoron have a not that of celestial, which dazzles the sight to whom they aim ...».
- le muse. II. Novara: De Agostini. 1964. p. 337.
- "Raccolta di lettere sulla pittura, scultura ed architettura scritte da' più celebri personaggi dei secoli 15., 16. E 17. Pubblicata da m. Gio. Bottari e continuata fino ai nostri giorni da Stefano Ticozzi. Volume primo [-ottavo ed ultimo]: 5". 1822.
- Soprani, Raffaele (1769). Vite de'pittori, scultori, ed architetti Genovesi. Seconda edizione riveduta, accresciuta, ed arrichita di note da Carlo Giuseppe Ratti (in Italian). Stamperia Casamara.
- de Boni, Filippo (1840). Biografia degli artisti (in Italian). Tipi del Gondoliere. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- Sani, Bernardina; Carriera, Rosalba (2007). Rosalba Carriera: 1673-1757 : maestra del pastello nell'Europa ancien régime (in Italian). U. Allemandi. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. 1960–2018.
- Arte documento (in Italian). Electa. 1988. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- Lanzi, Luigi (1825). Storia pittorica della Italia dal Risorgimento delle belle arti fin presso al fine del 18. secolo di Luigi Lanzi Volume 1. [-4.]: Volume 3. ove si descrivono la scuola veneziana e le scuole lombarde di Mantova, Modena, Parma, Cremona e Milano (in Italian). dalla Società tipog. de' Classici italiani. p. 238. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- Tallier, Galipido (1704). Nuovo plico d'ogni sorta di tinture, arricchito di rari, e bellissimi secreti per colorire animali, vegetabili, e minerali. Raccolti da Gallipido Tallier, e datti [!] in luce dal medesimo à beneficio comune. Consecrato al molt'illustre signor kau. Sebastiano Bombelli pittore eccellentissimo (in Italian). presso Lorenzo Basegio. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
nuovo plico d'ogni sorta di tinture.
- Cafagna, Ettore; Dal Cin, Valentina; Harivel, Maud (April 2017). Linguaggi del potere: l'élite della Repubblica di Venezia fra legittimazione e rappresentazione. Società e Storia. pp. 1–4. doi:10.3280/ss2017-155001.