The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew
This painting was done more or less at the same time as the Sacrifice of Isaac, over the last of the church of the Ospedaletto. The style is linked to that of his “debut”, influenced by the “tenebrosi”, specifically Bencovich. For this reason, before the discovery of the documents that made it possible to date the painting in 1772 many critics believed that it had been done as early as 1717. As to the subject, we can note that Tiepolo drew his inspiration from the Martyrdom of St. John that Piazzetta had painted a few years earlier for the same church. Furthermore, the execution is the same one – overturned – that we see in Solimena’s Rebecca in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.Iconography
Danae and Jupiter
In 1736 Count De Tessin, the Swedish envoy to Venice and art collector, purchased some paintings by Tiepolo including this one, which, after two changes of ownership was acquired by the University Museum. Even though it is universally acknowledged as one of the artist’s most sensational creations, Ovid’s tale is interpreted in a humoristic key with the little dog who is frightened by Jupiter’s eagle, the cupid in the foreground who naughtily participates in the event, the old maidservant who collects the gold coins falling from the sky in a plate. In his witty and irreverent interpretation of the myth, Tiepolo, with a confident touch, gives free rein to his chromatic exuberance with a score that combines subtle touches, tender and muted values with the loud notes.
The Ascent to Calvary
Some time around 1740 Tiepolo painted three large canvases with the Passion of Christ. The sources of inspiration for these masterpieces were Tintoretto and Titian, and specifically the latter’s Christ Crowned with Thorns that is the Louvre. In The Ascent to Calvary we see an interest in Rembrandt’s language in the realistic rendering of the bearded old men who seem to step out of the Dutch master’s etchings. There is a sketch for this painting in Berlin, but it is more open horizontally and more dispersive. The structure of the painting is tighter and more coherent, not only for the centrality of the hill in the background, but also the psychological interpretation of Christ on whom the entire story focuses. The composition is grandiose with stage-like sets, vanishing points and a large variety of characters.
The Vision of Simon Stock
On 21 December 1739 the brothers of the Scuola di Santa Maria del Carmelo, also known as “Dei Carmini” decided to commission Tiepolo to decorate the ceiling of the audience room with the central canvas and eight sections. The artist worked on the painting in several stages and although he had undertaken to complete it before the end of the year the ceiling was only uncovered in 1743. The central canvas that is dated on the tombstone was only put into place after the ceiling was uncovered. The scene shows Simon Stock receiving the scapular from the angel that would help the living achieve salvation and the souls in Purgatory to achieve peace.
The Family of Darius before Alexander
Painted for the salon of the Villa Cordellina, this is one of Tiepolo’s most moving works, inspired by the theme of princely magnanimity as embodied by the generous Alexander. He is listening to Darius’ mother, dressed in cobalt blue, pleading as she expresses her mournful version of the imprisonment. The composition in the Villa Cordellina fresco is based on Paolo Veronese’s version of the same episode that had been in Palazzo Pisani in Venice. In addition to using the background architecture and the horse on the left, Tiepolo also took many of the characters such as the page on the right and the old man with the beard in the middle.
Allegory of Fortitude and Wisdom
This ceiling comes from the Villa Barbarigo in Santa Maria del Giglio. The Venetian Museo Civico purchased it in 1935 when the Donà delle Rose collection was broken up. Tiepolo’s client was the nobleman Pietro Barbarigo, nicknamed “Lo Zoppo” (1711-1801). It is a frequent theme in the painter’s works for the evident celebratory meaning that was a favorite among nobles. From the stylistic standpoint this ceiling shows the clear features of Tiepolo’s mature period in the refound elegance of the composition, which is based on Veronese’s models, and in the carefully measured use of complementary colors. The entire painting is dominated by a brilliant light that creates sparkling effects on the finely woven clothes of the main figures and the page, while leaving Ignorance in the shadows.
St. James the Greater
Riccardo Wall, the Spanish ambassador to London ordered this splendid altarpiece for the embassy chapel in 1749. After having been displayed in San Marco in Venice the painting was sent to London. The embassy chaplains did not like it and suggested that the ambassador send it to Madrid and replaced it with one they considered more appropriate. The artist presents a radiant image of the patron saint of Spain. The apostle is portrayed not much as a holy figure to venerate but rather as an exalting metaphor of the nation: a victorious warrior astride a magnificent steed emerging from the heart of the battle. The painting is played out in strong chromatic and emotional contrasts so that the saint’s white horse stands out against the blue sky and the dramatic figures of the knights in battle are the antithesis of the calm resoluteness of the main figure.Iconography
Elevation of the Bishop of Würzburg to Duke of Franconia
Between 1750 and 1753 Tiepolo and his sons painted a series of frescoes for the Bishop Prince Karl Philipp von Greiffenklau. The cycle includes Apollo Brings Beatrix von Burgund to Kaiser Frederick Barbarossa as a Bride, The Wedding of Barbarossa and the one shown here with the artist’s signature and the date the work was completed. The emperor is seated on a shell-shaped throne, and the bishop Hereld kneels before him. Statues of Hercules and Minerva, symbols of the sovereign’s strength and wisdom, flank the throne. On either side of the protagonists are the dignitaries of the Imperial and Würzburg courts. These three frescoes, masterpieces of the Rococo, manifest an extraordinary wealth of color in broad expanses balanced between the lavish draping of the characters’ clothes and the luminous clarity of the blue skies.
While he was doing the frescoes in Würzburg Tiepolo also decorated the vault of the staircase, developing a theme he had already tackled some years earlier in the gallery of the Palazzo Clerici in Milan. In this Olympus he reached the apex of his stylistic parabola. The grandiose scene unfolds at the edges of the ceiling, while zigzagging groups are poised in the middle, “piercing” the ceiling to create an illusion of open space. In the symbolism he proposes an iconographic variety that ranges from the study of race to costume, to morphological research to human characterizations, to studies of flora and fauna.
The Abandonment of Armida
In 1757 Tiepolo received the commission to decorate rooms in the Giustino Valmarana’s villa. The educated Valmarana, who was a lover of theater, selected the themes all of which were inspired by the works of the great classic (Homer and Virgil) and Renaissance (Ariosto and Tasso) poets. Among the frescoes those dedicated to Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata tell of the love between the Christian prince Rinaldo and the witch Armida. This was not the first time Tiepolo portrayed the lovers, but in this version the execution is particularly expressive. The narration owes much to the patron’s knowledge of theater: so the knights and heroine become characters in a pièce that is melodramatically focused on a representation of feelings.
St. Francis Receives the Stigmata
In 1767 Tiepolo received the commission to paint seven altarpieces for the royal church of Aaranjuez. With respect to the sketch (Courtauld Institute Galleries, London) the painting presents considerable changes in composition and expression that introduce a more profound note in the portrayal of this mystical theme. The artist offsets the cold gray and faded yellow of the saint’s clothing and the details in the foreground that recall a dawn with the golden orange accents on the angel’s robes. These warm tones recur in the flesh and the angel’s hair revealing his radiant presence. The extraordinarily expressive group with the tense, enraptured saint and the reverent yet tender angel was certainly the work of Tiepolo’s hand while his son painted the silent landscape in the background.
Tiepolo received his training in the atelier of Gregorio Lazzarini one of the best known Venetian painters of the time. He worked there from 1710 to 1717 when he was registered in the guild of Venetian artists. His early works (1715-1716) include the five paintings in the church of the Ospedaletto in Venice, the style is very close to the “melancholic” painters of the period, Piazzetta and Federico Bencovich. Tiepolo quickly revealed an ability to paint in different styles: in the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew for the church of San Stae in Venice there are traces of Piazzetta’s influences, while in his first frescoes in Palazzo Sandi (1725-1726) the references were clearly Sebastiano Ricci and his interpretations of Paolo Veronese. The shift towards a more enchanting naturalism and lighter colors is also evident in the frescoes he painted in the Palazzo Arcivescovile in Udine. He decorated the Milanese palazzos, Archinto (destroyed during World War II) and Dugnani using a scenographic and illusionistic arrangement in his compositions. He was sought after by nobles and he expressed their aspirations with a rococo lightness, and he also did religious paintings, such as the ceiling of the church of the Gesuati in Venice. In parallel, he also painted on the easel: Apelles Painting the Portrait of Campaspe (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) that refers to his own work as a painter and he did some portraits as well. After he frescoed Palazzo Clerici in Milan, and Palazzo Labia in Venice and printed a series of bizarre Capricci (1743) in 1750 he was summoned to Würzburg by the bishop-prince Karl Philip of Greiffenklau to decorate the grandiose Residenz (completed in 1753). When he returned to Italy he received other commissions for noble residences (Villa Valmarana in Vicenza, Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice and Villa Pisani at Stra) and then in 1762 he left for Spain where he worked for Charles III decorating the royal palace, until his death. His eloquent and spectacular paintings reflect the secular culture of the eighteenth century while revealing the Venetian matrix of sixteenth century classicism that he amplified in bold illusionistic solutions graced by clear and airy illuminationThe works