Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

John Florens | Oct 5, 2023

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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo or Giambattista Tiepolo, born in Venice on March 5, 1696 and died in Madrid on March 27, 1770, was an Italian painter and engraver.

He worked in several major European courts, a fact characteristic of the circulation of artists in the Europe of the Enlightenment.

Representative of the rococo style, his works that made his reputation are the great cycles of frescoes that he painted in Venice and its region, but also in Bergamo or Milan and, outside Italy, in Madrid and Würzburg to decorate palaces and churches, but he also left many paintings and painted sketches.

He was the husband of Maria Cecilia Guardi, sister of the Venetian painters Francesco Guardi and Gianantonio Guardi. He is also the father of the painters Giandomenico Tiepolo and Lorenzo Tiepolo.


Giambattista was born in Venice in March 1696, the last of the six sons of Domenico Tiepolo, captain of a merchant ship, and his wife Orsetta Marangon, in the family home near the church of San Domenico di Castello in the sestiere of Castello. On April 16 he was baptized in the Basilica of San Pietro di Castello. On March 10 of the following year, his father died, leaving the family in persistent economic difficulties.

Around 1710 he entered the studio of Gregorio Lazzarini, an eclectic painter who was able to combine the various teachings of the Venetian tradition, from which he learned the first rudiments, but also the taste for the grandiose and theatrical in the compositions. Very soon he moved towards the so-called "dark" painting of Federico Bencovich and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. In addition to his contemporaries, Lazzarini's workshop was inspired by the great Venetians of the 16th century, Tintoretto and Paul Veronese, as well as the work of Jacopo Bassano.

In 1715 he began to paint the five arches of the altars of the Venetian church of Santa Maria dei Derelitti (Ospedaletto), with paired figures of apostles, with violent chiaroscuro and dark tones. During these years, Tiepolo also worked for the reigning doge, Giovanni II Corner, executing paintings and portraits in his palace, including that of Marco Corer (circa 1716), the first doge of the family, and that of Giovanni himself, in warm, light tones, referring to the manner of Sebastiano Ricci. In the same year he worked on the fresco of the Assunta in the old parish church of Biadene, while on August 16 he exhibited the sketch of the Submersio Faraonis at the feast of San Rocco.

The first mention of the artist in the Fraglia of Venetian painters dates back to 1717. In the same year he left Lazzarini's studio, and four engravings in the book Le Grand Théâtre des Peintures et Perspectives de Venise were taken from his drawings. Vasti's Repudiation dates from 1719, now in a private collection in Milan.

On November 21, 1719, he secretly married Maria Cecilia Guardi (1702-1779), sister of the Venetian rococo painters Francesco Guardi and Gianantonio Guardi, a marriage that would last more than fifty years. At least ten children were born from this union, of which four girls and three boys survived, among them Giandomenico and Lorenzo who worked as his assistants. The couple lived until 1734 in the house of their older brother Ambrogio, near the church of St. Francis of the Vine in Venice, near the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.

Between 1719 and 1720 he produced his first secular works, the decoration of the hall on the second floor of the Villa Baglioni (Padua-Massanzago). This hall is entirely covered with frescoes which, by piercing the walls by illusion, create an infinite space. The Myth of Phaeton is painted on the walls while the Triumph of the Dawn is represented on the vault. With this cycle he began his collaboration with the painter of the quadratura Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna, who in the following years painted for Tiepolo most of the false architectural decorations that frame his frescos.

In 1721 he was commissioned to paint the Madonna del Carmine for the Church of Sant'Aponal, which he began in 1722 and delivered in 1727, now in the Pinacoteca di Brera. In 1722 he delivered the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, intended for the series of several hands dedicated to the twelve apostles, for the church of San Stae in Venice, with a powerful expressive force given by the violent chiaroscuro and the sharpness of the graphic line.

In 1722 he frescoed the Glory of St. Lucy in the parish church of Vascon, near Treviso. In 1722 he participated in the competition for the decoration of the chapel of St. Dominic in the Basilica of San Zanipolo, later won by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. In 1724, following some modifications made to the church of the Ospedaletto by Domenico Rossi, he painted the vault with the Sacrifice of Isaac, the last example of his initial dark ways; from that moment on, his style moved towards bright colors with light tones immersed in a solar luminosity.

Between 1724 and 1725 he worked on the decoration of Palazzo Sandi with the great fresco on the ceiling of the room dedicated to the Triumph of Eloquence, an iconographic theme probably due to the profession of his client, the lawyer Tommaso Sandi. In the center, against the blue sky crossed by clouds, are the figures of Minerva and Mercury, while on the cornice, he represents four mythological episodes: Orpheus leading Eurydice out of Hades, Bellerophon on Pegasus kills the Chimera, Amphion thanks to the power of music builds the walls of Thebes and Heracles chains the Cercopes with his tongue. The compositional scheme is similar to that used by Luca Giordano in the Medici-Riccardi Palace, with a few figures in the center and many crowded to the sides, and will remain typical of all his later production. The lightening of the color that would become his unmistakable stylistic trait, inspired by the rediscovery of the work of Paul Veronese. For the same palace he also painted the three mythological canvases Ulysses discovers Achilles among the daughters of Lycomedes, Apollo flaying Marsyas and Hercules choking Antaeus, now in a private collection in Castelgomberto.

Probably between 1725 and 1726, he painted Alessandro and Campaspe in Apelle's studio, now in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with a strong autobiographical and self-congratulatory value: Apelle, the greatest painter of antiquity, is the artist's portrait, and he confers on Campaspe the beauty of his young wife Cecilia.

Maturity (1726-1740)

Between 1726 and 1729, he divided his work between Udine and Venice, always for commissions received from the Dolfin brothers, and organized himself to dedicate the warmer seasons to frescoes and the colder ones to paintings.

In Udine, the Patriarch of Aquileia Dionysius Dolfin commissioned him first to paint the frescoes and the small altarpiece of the Resurrection for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the city's cathedral, then the frescoes in the castle and above all the great decorative complex of the Patriarchal Palace. The decoration includes scenes and characters from the Old Testament: in the vault of the staircase the Fall of the rebel angels with about eight monochrome scenes with episodes from the Book of Genesis; in the long gallery, the three episodes of the Appearance of the three angels to Abraham, Rachel hides the idols and the appearance of the angel to Sarah, placed between monochrome figures of prophetesses and the Sacrifice of Isaac on the ceiling ; On the ceiling of the Red Room, at the time used as a civil and ecclesiastical court, the evocative Judgment of Solomon, considered his first masterpiece, is surrounded by mixed-line compartments with figures of prophets; finally, in the throne room, he painted portraits of ancient patriarchs, now in poor condition

In Venice, for Daniel III and Daniel IV, certainly at the suggestion of the patriarch Dionisio, he painted during the winters the ten large canvases of battles and ancient triumphs to decorate a large reception room of the Dolfin Manin palace. They were completed in 1729 and are now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Art History in Vienna.

Meanwhile, on August 30, 1727, his son Giandomenico, his future collaborator, was born.

In 1730 he was called to Milan, perhaps with the mediation of Scipione Maffei, to fresco the ceilings of five rooms in the Palazzo Archinto (Triumph of the Arts and Sciences, Myth of Phaeton, Perseus liberates Andromeda, Juno, Fortuna and Venus and the Allegory of Nobility), all of which were destroyed in the bombing of August 1943. In 1731, in Palazzo Dugnani (formerly Casati), he painted the stories of Scipio the African, with the Allegory of Magnanimity (or Apotheosis of Scipio) on the vault, while on the walls, the themes are The generosity of Scipio, Scipio giving freedom to Siface and, finally, Sofonisbe receiving poison from Massinissa. In correspondence with the entrance doors of the vestibule, he painted The four cardinal virtues and in the niches Abundance and Power.

Back in Venice in 1731, he executed the Education of the Virgin for the church of Santa Maria della Fava, the Nativity for the church of San Zulian and in 1732, the Adoration of the Child for the sacristy of the canons of the Basilica of San Marco.

In September 1732, he was already in Bergamo, where he began the frescoes of the Colleoni Chapel, which were originally intended to include only the pendentives with the allegories of the four virtues (Faith, Charity, Justice and Prudence) and the lunettes of St. Mark the Evangelist and the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew. Having completed these works, he was called back from Venice to compose three other lunettes with scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist: Sermon of the Baptist, Baptism of Christ and Beheading of the Baptist.

In 1734 he worked at Villa Loschi Zileri, in Monteviale near Vicenza, frescoing allegorical figures derived from Cesare Ripa's treatise Iconology, in the staircase and in the hall. In the same year he delivered the Pala del Paradiso to the church of All Saints in Rovetta and moved to Pasina, near the church of San Silvestro.

The Madonna del Rosario, a work signed and dated 1735, is now in a private collection in New York, and the Virgin and Child with Saints Giacinto and Domenico, in Chicago.

In 1736, his son Lorenzo was born. That same year he refused the offer to decorate the Royal Palace in Stockholm, declaring that the sum of money offered was insufficient, and executed the painting with Jupiter and Danae, now in Stockholm.

In January 1737, he delivered the Martyrdom of Saint Agatha, made for the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. The same year he returned to Milan, called by Cardinal Benedetto Odescalchi-Erba to create three frescoes in the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan. He sent three altarpieces to Udine for the patriarch and painted the lost altarpiece for the Cornaro altar in the church of San Salvador in Venice.

In the same year he also began the grandiose cycle of frescoes in the nave, ceiling and choir with the Glory of St. Dominic, in the church of Santa Maria del Rosario in Venice, completed in 1739: in the central fresco of the nave, the Institution of the Rosary, of which Tiepolo made three sketches; above fifteen steps, a symbol of the respective mysteries of the rosary, St. Dominic distributes to the faithful, including the incumbent doge Alvise Pisani and the patriarch Francesco Antonio Correr, the rosary that the Virgin had given him in a vision; the figures falling from the staircase are an allusion to the role played by the saint against heresy.

In 1739 he painted the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian for the monastery church in Diessen. During these years he painted the three large canvases with Scenes from the Passion of Christ for the church of Sant'Alvise in Venice. In these works, the dramatic tone is stronger and the influence of Tintoretto and Titian of the last years can be perceived, but also of Rembrandt's engravings, especially in the bearded men who appear in the Ascent to Golgotha; these paintings, begun around 1737, were delivered in 1740.

Palazzo Clerici and works for Francesco Algarotti (1740-1745)

In 1740 he sent the altarpiece with the Apparizione della Vergine a san Filippo Neri to Camerino. Around 1740 he collaborated in the engraving of the series of prints by Giuliano Giampiccoli of landscape views after Marco Ricci (36 landscapes with two frontispieces) published around 1740 and reissued with additions in 1775, by Teodoro Viero (48 landscapes and 4 frontispieces). The complete set of 36 landscapes is kept in the British Museum.

That same year he returned to Milan. He frescoed the vault of the gallery of Palazzo Clerici with the scenography of the Race of the Sun's Chariot with, in the center, the chariot of Apollo drawn by four horses, and piled up on the cornice, a multitude of groups and figures of divinities. The fresco was probably made for the wedding between the client Anton Giorgio Clerici and Fulvia Visconti, scheduled for 1741. Between 1741 and 1742 for the Basilica of St. Lawrence Martyr in Verolanuova, he painted on site the large canvases with the Fall of the Manna and the Sacrifice of Melchizedek.

Back in Venice in 1743, he was hired at the Palazzo Pisani to execute the Apotheosis of Vettor Pisani: the admiral, victorious in the War of Chioggia against the Genoese, is accompanied on Mount Olympus by Venus to be presented to Jupiter and Mars, Neptune attends the scene. This considerable commission forced him to postpone the delivery of the Portrait of Antonio Riccobono for the Accademia dei Concordi in Rovigo by a few months.

In 1743, Francesco Algarotti arrived in Venice to buy paintings on behalf of the Saxon king Augustus III and take them to Dresden. Tiepolo, who had become his friend, advised him and other Venetian painters in the purchase of works by the Old Masters. On Algarotti's commission, he also painted a few canvases, including the Triumph of Flora and Maecenas Presents the Arts to Augustus, sent to Count Brül in 1744, and the Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra, which is now in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The latter is described by Algarotti as "a beautiful field of architecture, the airiness of the site, the quirkiness of the clothes, the beautiful contrasts in the placement of the local colors, and an unspeakable frankness and lightness of brushwork make it a truly paolesque thing.

Also in 1743, the first publication of the Vari Capricci, a collection of ten engravings, took place. The second collection of twenty-four engravings probably dates from the same period, published posthumously by his son Giandomenico in 1775 or 1778, to which Giandomenico himself gave the title Scherzi di Fantasia (Farces of Fantasy).

Between 1743 and 1744 he worked on the decoration of Villa Cordellina in Montecchio Maggiore. In the vault of the room, he painted the Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over Ignorance, surrounded by six monochrome allegorical figures, and on the walls, the Family of Darius before Alexander and the Continence of Scipio.

Between 1744 and 1745, for the Palazzo Barbarigo alla Maddalena in Venice, in collaboration with Mengozzi Colonna, he made frescoes and canvases, including the ceiling with Virtue and Nobility conquering Ignorance. The two series of paintings with scenes from The Delivered Jerusalem: the four canvases, destined for an unspecified Venetian palace, now in Chicago, and the four elongated ones for the new boudoir on the noble second floor of the corner building in San Polo, now in the National Gallery in London, date from this period. For the same boudoir, he also painted four gilded monochrome medallions (two are in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one lost) and the ceiling (now in the National Gallery of Australia). Also in this building, he frescoed the ceilings of some rooms (two torn and reassembled on canvas are in the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris). The three door tops with satyrs also probably date from these years, two now in Pasadena at the Norton Simon Museum and one in the National Gallery of Ancient Art (Rome). Between April and November he frescoed the vault of the nave of the church of Santa Maria di Nazareth in Venice with the Transport of the Holy House of Loreto, destroyed in 1915 in an air raid during the First World War; the two preparatory sketches by Tiepolo and some fragments of the pendentives remain, as well as a painting by Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo and a drawing by Olivier Maceratesi. In September of the same year, he delivered the altarpiece with the Martyrdom of St. John, Bishop of Bergamo to the cathedral of Bergamo.

Between 1744 and 1749, he delivered the nine paintings for the ceiling of the chapter house of the Scuola Grande dei Carmini in Venice, commissioned in 1739. In the large central scene of the Virgin in Glory handing over the scapular to St. Simon Stock, the Virgin and Child are supported by a whirlwind of angels, the cherubs seem to dazzle the blessed prostrate towards the representation of the souls in Purgatory, while receiving from an angel the scapular, sacred source of indulgences.

Labia Palace (1746-1749)

Between 1746 and 1747, he created the decorative complex of the Palazzo Labia in Venice, assisted by Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna's framing, perfectly integrated with the narrative episodes. In the ballroom, he frescoed the Stories of Antony and Cleopatra with sumptuously dressed characters in theatrically eloquent poses: on the walls the two main scenes, Encounter between Antony and Cleopatra and the Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra, and in the vault, in a central oculus, Bellerophon on Pegasus flying towards Glory and Eternity, all surrounded by allegorical or mythological figures and colorful scenes. In the Hall of Mirrors, he painted the Triumph of Zephyr and Flora, a fresco on the ceiling.

In 1747, Tiepolo moved to the parish of Santa Fosca Church in Venice, near the Noal Bridge.

In 1748 he painted two ceilings for the Dolfin Manin Palace in Venice, on the occasion of the wedding of Ludovico Manin and Elisabetta Grimani. In the same year, he executed and certainly delivered the altarpiece of the Madonna with Saints Catherine, Rosa da Lima and Agnese da Montepulciano for the church of Santa Maria del Rosario in Venice.

In 1749, he sent Ricardo Wal, Spanish ambassador in London, the altarpiece of St. James the Greater, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. In the same year, he finally delivered the large central compartment of the ceiling to the Scuola Grande dei Carmini.

Würzburg (1750-1753)

On December 12, 1750, at the invitation of Prince-Bishop Karl Philipp von Greiffenclau zu Vollrads, he moved to Würzburg to decorate his new residence with his sons Giandomenico and Lorenzo. He decorated the Kaisersaal, then the dining room, with an iconographic program related to the investiture of Aroldo, the first prince-bishop of Würzburg, by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. On the vault, he frescoed Apollo leading the genius of the Germanic nation Beatrice of Burgundy, Barbarossa's future wife, with figures that illusorily straddle the stucco frame, the work of Antonio Giuseppe Bossi; on the walls, the scenes are framed by a scenic curtain worked in colored stucco, with Barbarossa's wedding and the investiture of Bishop Aroldo as Duke of Franconia, signed and dated GIO. TIEPOLO 1752.

Having completed this room, he immediately devoted himself to the altarpieces of the Fall of the Rebel Angels and the Assumption for the chapel of the Residence, and then moved on to decorate the huge ceiling of Johann Balthasar Neumann's monumental staircase with an Allegory of the Planets and Continents, completed in November 1753, which shows Apollo in his daily race with the gods symbolizing the planets; the allegorical figures on the cornice represent the four continents, including America. He had already exploited this theme in the Baglioni salon in Padua in 1720 and in the Clerici salon in Milan in 1740. The space of vision is conceived as inexorably distant and the world of representation is thus fictitious, illusory, contrary to what happened in the Baroque aesthetic, where space, even infinite, retained a certain degree of reality.

Return to Venice and Villa Valmarana (1753-1760)

Leaving Würzburg on November 8, 1753, he returned to Venice where on May 8 he delivered the painting with the Apparition of the Virgin to St. John Nepomuk to the church of San Polo. In 1754 he began decorating the church of the Pietà in Venice, creating the fresco of the Coronation of Mary Immaculate on the vault of the nave.

He buys a villa in Zignago with the money he has collected in Würzburg. He was elected president of the Ricovrati Academy of Padua.

In 1757 he decorated the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza, decorating the central room in the main building called Iphigenia (Iphigenia) and the four adjoining rooms called Sala dell'Iliad (Iliad room), Gerusalemme liberata, (Jerusalem liberated), the Aeneid and Orlando furioso. The iconographic program is probably suggested by the passion of the client Giustino Valmarana, who died in 1757, for the classical and chivalric epic. In the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, the source can be identified with Iphigenia in Tauris (Euripides), a subject taken up in various ways in the work: as the priest prepares to thrust the knife into the flesh of the poor victim, Diana makes a fawn appear to replace Iphigenia on the altar; to everyone's astonishment, the only one who does not notice is Agamemnon, for, shattered by grief, he covers his face with his coat. In this room, Mengozzi Colonna's architectural partition serves as a support for the real frame, creating the illusion of continuity between the painted space and the real space. On the ceiling, Tiepolo paints Diana and Aeolus, with the goddess caught in the act of ordering the appearance of the fawn to upset the sacrifice, and Aeolus able to make the winds blow again.

In the Sala dell'Iliad, he structures the fresco with Minerva preventing Achilles from killing Agamemnon so that the three main characters are as if on a proscenium, to place the crowd of warriors in the background as if it were a theatrical chorus. In the Orlando Furioso and Gerusalemme Liberata rooms, he treats the narrative in a more episodic way with frescoes, mainly thematic, with a more intimate and sentimental tone, enclosed in Rococo style frames, perhaps due to the influence of his son Giandomenico. In the guest house, he frescoed the Sala dell'Olimpo and perhaps also the Carnival, leaving the others to Giandomenico's hand.

Still for the same Valmarana family, he also executed the lost decoration of the Palazzo Trento Valmarana. In the same period, and still in the Vicenza area, he painted the altarpiece of the Apotheosis of San Gaetano Thiene for the church of Rampazzo, on commission from the Thiene family.

Back in Venice, he worked at the Ca' Rezzonico, frescoing the two ceilings with Wedding Joy and Nobility and Virtue Accompanying Merit to the Temple of Glory on the occasion of the wedding between Ludovico Rezzonico and Faustina Savorgnan.

On September 30, 1759, he delivered the altarpiece of St. Silvester baptizes the Emperor Constantine for the high altar of the church of San Silvestro in Folzano (a hamlet of Brescia) and on December 24 the altarpiece of the cathedral of Este with St. Tecla liberates Este from the plague. In Udine, the same year, together with his son Giandomenico, he painted the frescoes of the Oratory of Purity.

In 1760 he painted the Triumph of Hercules for the Palazzo Canossa in Verona, which was seriously damaged during the Second World War; in the same year he was commissioned to paint the Apotheosis of the Pisani family for the hall of the Villa Pisani (Stra). In this great work, Tiepolo's last in Italy, it is not the founders or illustrious personalities of the family, in particular, who are exalted, but the members themselves living at that time. In the same period, he also painted the altarpiece of the Miracle of St. Anthony for the Cathedral of San Michele Arcangelo in Mirano.

End of life in Spain (1762-1770)

Tiepolo was renowned locally, but also abroad, such as in Russia and England. In 1761, Charles III (King of Spain) commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Apotheosis of Spain for the Royal Palace in Madrid. The painter, who left with his sons Lorenzo and Giandomenico on March 31, 1762, arrived in Madrid on June 4 and settled in the Plaza San Martín, which provoked the jealousy and opposition of Raphael Mengs. He remained there until his death. Giambattista reluctantly accepted the position and the trip, and it took the intervention of Spanish diplomacy, especially in Venice, to convince him: after a first sign of availability to Count Felice Cazzola, one of the representatives of Charles III in Venice, during an informal meeting at the Palazzo Canossa in Verona, Tiepolo received an official letter with an original text in Castilian and an Italian translation, in addition to the map of the place to be painted. However, he procrastinated: he wanted to finish the commitments for the Canossa and the Pisans. The absolutist spirit of the Spanish monarchy demands quick and certain answers: the Marquis of Squillace, Secretary of State, summons Sebastiano Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador in Madrid. Once this news reached Venice, Tiepolo was urgently summoned by the state inquisitors who forced him to leave.

He took with him the sketch of the vast ceiling of the throne room, prepared the previous month, whose theme had been given to him the year before by Count Felice Cazzola, with all the necessary indications. This was the only work for which he was commissioned. The fresco was completed in 1764, without deviating too much from the project and with the help of his children, who knew how to blend in with the paternal style. The result is an anthology of all the themes officially dear to the Spanish crown: around, appear the four continents, among which stand out the American colonies with the caravel of Christopher Columbus; below, the myths of antiquity and the Catholic religion (for which he compares the theological virtues to the usual allegories of the pagan virtues (towards the center, the throne of Spain between the statues of Minerva (in a corner, two columns, a clear reference to the columns of Hercules and the motto Plus ultra that Charles V had given himself to emphasize the maritime power.

The king, satisfied with the result, commissioned two more ceiling frescoes: The Apotheosis of Aeneas in the Hall of Halberdiers and the Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy in the Queen's Anteroom, completed in 1766. The first of the paintings (it is not known in what order they were painted: a preparatory sketch was made for both) is now considered the least successful: in the hectic representation composed in a spiral, Vulcan forges the weapons at the bottom, then Aeneas, with his group, ascends to his mother Venus, who is in the center surrounded by the Graces, and on the opposite side, at the top of the clouds, Mercury appears. The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy is considered the best of all Tiepolo's frescoes in the palace and is also the smallest: at the lower left, beneath a Neptune bearing the gifts of the sea, a muscular Hercules seems intent on tearing open one of his columns to open the ocean space to Spain; at the right, Mars and Venus converse together beneath a fortified tower, perhaps a symbol of Spanish power; toward the center is the group of the monarchy supervised by Apollo, with Mercury descending in flight bearing the crown; almost hidden above the whole, Jupiter dominates.

In January 1767 Giambattista himself offered to do some altarpieces for the church of the convent of San Pasquale Baylon in Aranjuez, then under construction (the curious thing is that he also had to show that he was a good canvas painter). Two months later, the king sent him to say that he would decide only after seeing the sketches, which Tiepolo could send soon (he was discouraged to try to present them himself). When the painter communicates that the canvases are ready, he must also seek information on what to do since the church is not yet finished. He also asked for signs of approval from Father Joaquín de Eleta, confessor of Charles III and superintendent of the work, who did not respond. Only later, through the mediation of Miguel de Mizquiz, who had become Minister of Finance, did he receive the news that the king had entrusted him with a new task: the decoration of the dome of the royal palace in the Granja de San Ildefonso. However, the paintings had to remain in the Tiepolos' workshop until May 1770, when the church was consecrated; Giambattista had been dead for more than a month. The set consists of seven canvases: for the high altar the Vision of San Pasquale (for the two side apsidal chapels to the left the Immaculate Conception and to the right St. Francis receives the stigmata (in the two altars on either side of the nave, towards the choir on the left, St. Joseph with the Child (now reduced to three fragments distributed among the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Prado Museum and the Courtauld Gallery) and in front of St. Charles Borromeo meditating on the Crucifix (this unique painting was never installed because the dedication of the altar had changed) ; the altarpieces of the last two altars were intended to be oval with St. Peter of Alcantara on the left (now in the Royal Palace of Madrid) and St. Anthony of Padua with the Child Jesus on the right (now in the Prado Museum). Only the sketches of the two ovals have not survived. All the altarpieces avoid the presence of human figures in addition to the saint (only in the one of St. Anthony, with an original solution: a monk sees the miracle from a doorway) in rarefied spaces, with the result of accentuated mysticism. In November 1770, Charles III decided to replace all the paintings with works by Anton Raphael Mengs and his pupils Francisco Bayeu and Mariano Salvador Maella, which were placed between 1772 and 1775.

At the end of 1769, faced with the new royal assignment of the Granja, Tiepolo managed to prepare a few drawings and a sketch of the Triumph of the Immaculate Conception (certainly identifiable with the one owned by the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin), but it was already winter and he would have to wait for the next good season to work on the fresco, a season that Giambattista would not see.

Tiepolo's important royal missions, prolonged in time by bureaucratic protocol and the centralization of decisions in the person of the king, did not allow him to receive many private commissions: only a small group of works can probably be dated to the Spanish period. This is the case of the small painting Venus entrusts Cupid to Time, which can nevertheless be linked to the royal entourage and which is his last work of a secular nature; or the large painting Abraham and the Angels with its resolutely classical decor and, given its size, intended for a client with good financial means. A few small, carefully treated canvases, certainly not sketches, painted for private devotion, perhaps even by Tiepolo for himself, are of interest: a Deposition, an Annunciation, another Abraham and the Angels. In addition to these, critics have focused their attention on the four small canvases dedicated to the Flight to Egypt, considering them, in the melancholic representation of desolate landscapes and a tiring journey, as the author's manifest and nostalgic desire to escape and return to his beloved home.

As his great prestige declined, overwhelmed by the wave of the new neoclassical fashion, Tiepolo died suddenly in Madrid on 27 March 1770. He was buried in the Church of the Madonna dell'Orto in Venice.

An excellent painter, he influenced Francisco Goya through a notable technique that later gained great recognition: light, the "illumination" of specific parts of the painting with light colors to bring out impressions or ideas, such as purity or the divine.

The themes almost always include an allusion to death and magic.

Before 1730

Sainte Catherine de Sienne (1746), musée d'Histoire de l'art de Vienne

La Vérité dévoilée par le Temps (1743), Musée des Beaux-Arts (Boston)

After 1750

The writer Marcel Proust referred to his shade of pink as "an old cherry pink".

An unpublished painting, the portrait of a lady living in Würzburg, discovered in 2008 in the attic of a castle in the Sundgau, has been attributed to him and entitled Portrait of a Lady in Flora.


  1. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
  2. Giambattista Tiepolo
  3. Comme l’a noté Federico Montecuccoli degli Erri, la date exacte de naissance communément acceptée - publiée à l’origine dans la monographie de Michael Levey - est erronée et ne peut plus être acceptée. Dans l’acte baptismal de Jean-Baptiste (16 avril 1696), le jour de naissance est laissé en blanc, comme si l’on voulait le préciser ultérieurement : on lit en effet « Gio. Batta [etc.] naquit le ... du [mois] passé ». Cfr. Montecuccoli degli Erri, Giambattista Tiepolo. Nuove pagine di vita privata, « Terzo Centenario », p. 69.
  4. Le nom de famille rappelle la maison patricienne homonyme, mais la famille du peintre n’était pas noble.
  5. En référence au style de Paul Véronèse.
  6. ^ a b Come ha notato Federico Montecuccoli degli Erri l’esatta data di nascita comunemente accettata – pubblicata originariamente nella monografia di Michael Levey – è errata e ormai nemmeno ricostruibile. Nell’atto battesimale di Giambattista (16 aprile 1696) il giorno di nascita è lasciato in bianco, come se si volesse precisarlo in un secondo tempo: si legge infatti «Gio. Batta [etc.] nacque li [...] del passato [mese]». Cfr. Montecuccoli degli Erri, Giambattista Tiepolo. Nuove pagine di vita privata in Terzo Centenario, p. 69.
  7. ^ Il cognome ricorda l'omonima casata patrizia, ma la famiglia del pittore non era nobile.
  8. ^ Pedrocco-Gemin, p. 220.
  9. ^ Pedrocco-Gemin, p. 52.
  10. ^ Mauro Colombo, Gli affreschi del Tiepolo di palazzo Casati-Dugnani, su, 26 giugno 2015.
  11. ^ a b Levey 1980, p. 193.
  12. ^ a b c Giambattista Tiepolo 1698–1770 1996, p. 37.
  13. ^ Giambattista Tiepolo 1698–1770 1996, p. 37–8.
  14. ^ Giambattista Tiepolo 1698–1770 1996, p. 57.
  15. ^ Giambattista Tiepolo 1698–1770 1996, p. 39.
  16. 1 2 Тьеполо Джованни Баттиста // Большая советская энциклопедия: [в 30 т.] / под ред. А. М. Прохоров — 3-е изд. — М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1969.
  17. Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 RKDartists (нидерл.)

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