Thursday, September 17, 2009


Giovan Battista Tiepolo was born in Venice in 1696 and died in Madrid on 27 March, 1770. He was the son of a sea-captain and marine merchant, who left behind him a considerable fortune. His father, who was part owner of a ship, died when Tiepolo was scarcely a year old, but the family was left in comfortable circumstances. As a youth, he was apprenticed to Gregorio Lazzarini, a mediocre but fashionable painter known for his elaborately theatrical, rather grandiose compositions. Tiepolo soon evolved a more spirited style of his own. By the time he was 20, he had exhibited his work independently, and won plaudits, at an exhibition in S. Rocco. The next year he became a member of the Fraglia, or painters' guild.
In 1719 he married Cecilia Guardi, whose brother Francesco was to become famous as a painter of the Venetian scene. They had nine children, among them Giovanni Domenico and Lorenzo Baldassare, who were also painters.
In the 1720s Tiepolo carried out many large-scale commissions on the northern Italian mainland. Of these the most important is the cycle of Old Testament scenes done for the patriarch of Aquileia, Daniele Dolfin, in the new Archbishop's Palace at Udine. Here Tiepolo abandoned the dark hues that had characterized his early style and turned instead to the bright, sparkling colors that were to make him famous.
(Copyright © 2009 Answers Corporation)

The Triumph of Marius, 1725-1729
Model : Gaius Marcus Jugurtha
Material : Painting on canvas
Acquisition : Rogers Fund (1965)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image from

The Adoration of the Magi, 1726-30
Oil on canvas, 330,2 x 289,6 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor
© Web Gallery of Art

The artist's bold and colourful treatment of the theme in The Adoration of the Magi, above, is a link in Venetian painting between Paolo Veronese and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The composition is derived in its essentials from the altarpiece painted by Veronese in 1573, Venice (now in the National Gallery, London) and anticipates the altarpiece painted by Tiepolo in 1753 for the monastery of Schwarzach in Franconia (now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich). All three works are large, but the composition by Tiepolo differs from the others, which are almost square in format, by being compressed into a vertical.
The Adoration of the Magi was acquired by George III in 1762 from Consul Joseph Smith and formed part of a series of seven pictures of New Testament subjects.
The origin of the commission for this series of paintings is unknown. The size of the undertaking (the dimensions in each case are extremely large and there are fundamental changes in format) has caused the series to be associated with an unrecorded commission for the Royal House of Savoy in Turin, for whom Ricci worked during the 1720s.
The painting demonstrates Sebastiano Ricc's role in the evolution of Rococo art in Venice, which reached its climax in the work of Tiepolo. The setting of The Adoration of the Magi is dramatic, the brushwork full of verve and panache and the colours bright. Several changes in the composition can be seen with the naked eye, especially in the centre. The artist travelled extensively in Italy and also worked in England from 1711/12 to 1716, returning home via France. He formed a partnership with his nephew, Marco (1676-1730), who, according to Gherardi, painted the architectural background to The Adoration of the Magi and the related pictures.
(© Web Gallery of Art)

The Triumph of Marius
Oil on canvas, 1729
Photograph Credits
Copyright © 2000–2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The subject of this triumphal procession, above, is identified by a Latin inscription at the top of the canvas from the Roman historian Lucius Anneus Florus (Epitome of Roman History): "The Roman people behold Jugurtha laden with chains." The African king Jugurtha is shown descending a hill before his captor, the Roman general Gaius Marius. A youth beats a tambourine while other figures carry booty, including a bust of the mother goddess Cybele. The thirty-year-old Tiepolo included his portrait among the figures at the left. The procession was held on January 1, 104 B.C. The picture—a masterpiece of Tiepolo's early maturity—is from a series of ten canvases painted about 1725–29 to decorate the main room of the Ca' Dolfin, Venice.
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
From the 1730s on Tiepolo devoted himself chiefly to secular themes: mythologies and allegories that glorified Venice and its noble families. The great need these paintings fulfilled is rooted in Venetian history. In Tiepolo's day Venice lived under a shadow. Its 1, 000-year-long history as an independent state was soon to come to an end. For centuries Venice had remained secure and prosperous behind walls of wood and water. Its ships protected it and brought back wealth from beyond the Adriatic Sea. Once Venice had been the great power of the Mediterranean, before which Turks had fled and even distant Byzantium trembled. But by the 18th century, while there was still much gold, there was almost no power. No longer within the main currents of international politics, Venice existed instead as a fashionable backwater, a stopover for visiting Englishmen on the grand tour.
(Copyright © 2009 Answers Corporation)

The Banquet of Cleopatra
Oil on canvas, 1743-1744
98 x 136 1/8 inches
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal
Copyright © 2000–2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The subject is from the 'Natural History' of Pliny and shows Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, about to dissolve one of her famous pearls in a cup of wine, thus expressing her contempt for wealth to Mark Anthony, who recoils in surprise. This small painting may be an early sketch for the decoration of Tiepolo's famous frescoed room in the Palazzo Labia in Venice, which was painted in about 1745.
As in the banquet scenes of Veronese, which were a strong influence on Tiepolo, the architecture and the figures of the attendants enhance the effect of splendour. The viewpoint is low and the table is set on a dais between matching buildings with terraces for spectators.
(The National Gallery)

Apollo and The Continents
1750 to 1753
This image iscourtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Tiepolo's greatest works are unquestionably the frescoed ceilings he carried out for in Venice and villas and palaces in Italy, Germany (Residenz, Würzburg), and Spain (Royal Palace, Madrid). Apollo and The Continents, above, was painted between 1750 and 1753 for the Prince-Bishop Carl Philipp von Greiffenklau in Würzburg. Over the grandiose staircase designed by the German architect Balthasar Neuman, Tiepolo painted a vast ceiling showing Apollo and the continents. In this fresco, the ceiling opens onto a light-filled sky inhabited by the Olympian gods, while around the periphery are shown picturesque vignettes symbolizing the four continents, with figures shown as though standing on the cornice. Tiepolo employed multiple viewpoints determined by the ceremonial progress of visitors climbing the stairs for an audience with the prince-bishop, thus showing his acute awareness of site and function. The oval reception room was, again, decorated by Tiepolo, this time with semi-mythic events from local history, and here dazzling stuccowork frames the frescoes, sometimes feigning curtains drawn back to reveal the scenes and at other times seamlessly transforming painted figures into 3-D by realizing a hand, foot, arm, or prop in sculpted relief.
(Keith Christiansen, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Apollo and The Continents (detail 1)

Apollo and The Continents (detail 2)

Apollo and The Continents (detail 3)

Apollo and The Continents (detail 4)
All images: courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

The personification of Europe (detail 4 above) enthroned on a stone podium and resting against a bull, is surrounded by figures who are meant to refer to the importance of religion and the visual arts on this continent. In the left foreground, a figure symbolizing Painting kneels over a globe, palette and brush in hand. A musician on the right-hand side symbolizes Music, while the man facing the viewer and surrounded by the attributes of sculpture represents that branch of the arts. Tiepolo has lent him the features of the stucco artist Antonio Bossi. The figure reclining in the foreground is a portrait of Balthasar Neumann, who designed the Residence. His uniform refers to his rank as colonel in the Artillery. On the extreme left, Tiepolo portrayed himself and his son Giandomenico along with the painter Franz Ignaz Roth.
(© Web Gallery of Art)
His earliest master was Lazzerini, but his artistic career was derived from a careful study of the works of Titian, Piazzeta, Ricci, and especially Veronese. Up to 1750 he worked in Venice and various places in the north of Italy, painting some remarkable works at Milan, in Brescia, and in one or two villages near Venice. He then, accompanied by his son, travelled to Wurzburg, where he resided for three year. He was back again in Venice in 1753, full of commissions, elected President of the Academy of Padua, and holding high distinction in his native town.
(Malaspina Biography, Books from Alibris: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo at

Aeneas Introducing Cupid Dressed as Ascanius to Dido
Dido. the queen of Carthage, is Struck by Cupid's Dart
Location: Dido's Court, 1757
Fresco, 230 x 240 cm
Villa Valmarana, Vicenza
© Web Gallery of Art

The above scene depicts:
Iarbus is once again pushing his suit, and Dido is diplomatically rejecting his advances. It is the Queen's sister Anna who brings to our attention how "Aeneas' little son plays with your (Dido's) garments and embraceth you". Cupid engineers his way onto Dido's lap using his childish charm, and soon we can see his deed is done when Dido begins behaving erratically towards Iarbus, alternatively demanding he leave and then calling him back. A perplexed Iarbus finally departs, leaving Dido to confide in Anna her sudden love for Aeneas. The audience learns in an aside that Anna is secretly in love with Iarbus, and thus encourages her sister's new found passion. Dido asks her to bring Aeneas to her, but when he arrives, he is accompanied by his Trojan companions. Dido tries to conceal her feelings, but continues to behave a little erratically (for example, pretending initially not to notice Aeneas in the group). The queen asks what she might do for Aeneas, who somewhat sheepishly replies that she might help repair his damaged fleet. "Conditionally that thou wilt stay with me, and let Achates sail to Italy," bargains Dido. The Queen blusters that she needs Aeneas to help her "war against her bordering enemies. She shows a gallery of her former suitors, whom the Trojans recognise as kings, and says that she rejected all their advances (although Marlowe does not play on her alleged historical faithfulness to her murdered husband). "O happy shall he be whom Dido loves," declares Aeneas, seemingly ready to return the queen's feelings. "It may be thou shalt be my love," teases Dido in reply.
(Copyright © The Marlowe Society 2009)
In 1761 Tiepolo accepted the invitation of Charles III, King of Spain, to come to that country to decorate the royal palace of Madrid. Unfortunately, during his residence there he incurred the jealousy and the bitter opposition of Raphael Mengs. He is the last of the great Venetian painters; his works are magnificent in force, brilliance, and skill. As a draughtsman and colourist, few have approached him; as an etcher, he took a high position.
(Malaspina Biography, Books from Alibris: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo at

"La furia de Aquiles"
Rage of Achilles
1757, Fresco, 300 x 300 cm
Villa Valmarana, Vicenza
Image from

Achilles, above, is outraged that Agamemnon would threaten to seize his warprize, Briseis, and he draws his sword to kill Agamemnon. The sudden appearance of the goddess Minerva, who, in this fresco, has grabbed Achilles by the hair, prevents the act of violence.

Head of an Oriental, 1757
Italian oil
Posted posted by mharrsch at

The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy
Fresco, 1762-1766
590 1/2 x 354 1/4 inches (1500 x 900 cm)
Queen's Antechamber, Palacio Real, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

From 1762 until his death, Tiepolo worked in Spain for Charles III and decorated several rooms in the Palacio Real, Madrid. The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy is one of two oil sketches for the saleta adjacent to the throne room. Each shows a female figure of Spain with lions for the province of León, an old woman beside a castle for Castile, and Hercules, the traditional protector of Spain, with a column representing Gibraltar. The compositions of the two sketches and the prominence of the figures are quite varied.
(Copyright © 2000–2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Tiepolo stayed on in Spain even after 1766, when he finished the other frescoes for the Royal Palace. But the atmosphere around him was changing. Following the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the cry was now for neoclassicism. Its chief exponent in Spain, the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs, won increasing favor with the court, and the King's adviser, Padre Joaquim de Electa, especially admired Mengs's paintings and found Tiepolo's work frivolous and absurdly out of date. In 1767, not without difficulty, Tiepolo secured one more major commission: to paint seven large altarpieces in Aranjuez. Shortly after they were finished, Electa had them taken down and replaced with canvases by Mengs and others. When on March 27, 1770, at the age of 74, Tiepolo died, he had already outlived the era he had done so much to create.
(Copyright © 2009 Answers Corporation)
His art celebrates the imagination by transposing the world of ancient history and myth, the scriptures, and sacred legends into a grandiose, even theatrical language. His art, with its genial departures from convention and its brilliant use of costumed splendor, celebrates the notion of artistic caprice (capriccio) and fantasy (fantasia). In his hands, the informal oil sketch was raised to a primary art form, worthy to be collected alongside his finished paintings.
(Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)

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