Giambattista Tiepolo ‘ The Italian Rococo Artist ‘

europe, tiepolo

Giambattista Tiepolo (1678-1770)

Tiepolo was the greatest exponent of the Italian Rococo style. Born in Venice at the end of the 17th century, he trained briefly with an obscure local painter before gaining independent recognition at the age of 20 with a publicly exhibited oil painting. Shortly afterward, Tiepolo turned to fresco, and it was in this medium that he made his greatest contribution, producing a series of dazzling wall and ceiling paintings.

Tiepolo brought to his decorative frescoes an unprecedented mastery of illusion and brilliant handling of light effects. He soon gained an international reputation, and at the height of his career, he was summoned to Germany to decorate the palace of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg. Tiepolo's last great project was the decoration of the Spanish Royal Palace in Madrid and he died in that city in 1770.

portrait of giambattista tiepolo


In the Grand Tradition

Professional in outlook, easy-going by nature, and happily married, Tiepolo led a quiet, uncomplicated life which belied the explosive vigor of his art and the remarkable success he achieved.

Giovanni Battista (or Giambattista) Tiepolo was born in 1696 in eastern Venice. His father, a trader in shipping, died when Giovanni Battista was only a year old but left his mother and her five children in comfortable circumstances. The city in which the young Tiepolo was brought up was already one of the tourist capitals of Europe, a center of sightseeing, gambling, and nightlife, but, politically and culturally, living largely off its past reputation. The Venetian Republic was now under the exclusive control of an increasingly corrupt and inbred aristocracy, who maintained a complete resistance to change and foreign ideas.

The life of an artist in 18th-century Venice was an especially difficult and competitive one. The state, which had been responsible for many of the major works of Renaissance art, was no longer in a financial position to assist its artists substantially and was to offer only one minor commission to an artist as important as Tiepolo. The numerous tourists in the city were interested in art primarily for its topographical and souvenir value, while the aristocracy was far keener to collect Old Master paintings than modern works. Only the Church continued to be an extensive source of patronage.

However, no matter how or where an artist found support, his continuing success depended greatly on his being able to work at considerable speed. Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, a man totally dedicated to his painting, died in extreme poverty because, in the words of one contemporary, 'he worked like a snail'. Tiepolo, fortunately, was to display from the start exceptional facility.

Unlike his fellow artists in almost every other major Italian city, Tiepolo had to follow the medieval practice of becoming an apprentice in a studio workshop. In conservative Venice, an Academy of Painting and Sculpture was not to be founded until as late as 1750. Tiepolo trained under one Gregorio Lazzarini, although, according to his earliest biographer, Vincenzo Da Canal, he soon departed from Lazzarini's 'diligent manner, and, being all fire and spirit, adopted one which was rapid and free'.

picture of the parish of san pietro di castello

A Venetian born and bred:
The quiet, picturesque quarter of Venice where Tiepolo was born and where his family lived – the parish of San Pietro di Castello - still retains today its characteristic charm.


At the age of 20, Tiepolo made a great name for himself by winning a painting competition with a work later exhibited in the open-air gallery outside the church of St Roch - The Crossing of the Red Sea, which has since been lost. In the following year, 1717, Tiepolo was made a member of the Venice Guild of Painters, and by 1719 was sufficiently well-established to marry Cecilia Guardi, the sister of the view painter Francesco Guardi. Of the nine children they were to have, two became Tiepolo's assistants - Domenico, born in 1727, and Lorenzo, born in 1736.

Tiepolo's future was secured in the 1720s when he was taken up by the most adventurous Venetian patrons of the time, the aristocratic Dolfin family. At their request, Tiepolo decorated the enormous room of their palace in Venice with a series of large oil paintings portraying scenes from Roman history. Shortly afterward, another member of the family, the archbishop of Udine, commissioned Tiepolo to paint frescoes for a gallery in his palace. These were the artist's first major works in fresco, a medium which was then being revived in the Veneto - the area around Venice - following over a century of neglect. It was essentially as a frescoist that Tiepolo was to make his reputation, for he was to handle the medium with an unprecedented virtuosity.

The great fresco decorations of the 17th and 18th centuries were the work, not just of a figure painter, but of a whole team, which included an architect, a stuccoist, an ornamentalist, a gilder, and a quadrature (architectural painter). The latter, responsible for the elaborately painted framework in which a fresco would be set, was undoubtedly the most important member of the team after the figure painter and enjoyed a relationship with him similar to that between a theatre director and a playwright.

the sacrifice of isaac(detail), tiepolo

Earliest known work:
Tiepolo's Sacrifice of Isaac, painted in 1716, shows a heavy, prosaic touch which was characteristic not until he began fresco painting that Tiepolo allowed his technical facility and feeling for space and light their full expression.

apelles painting the portrait of campaspe, tiepolo

The artist and his wife:
Here Tiepolo paints himself as the great artist of antiquity, Apelles, with his wife Cecilia posing as Campaspe.

the family of alexander before darius, paolo veronese

Veronese's influence :
The sumptuous richly colored painting of the 16th-century Venetian artist, Paolo Veronese, was much admired in 18th-century Venice and was symptomatic of the wave of nostalgia for the Renaissance. Tiepolo was greatly influenced by Veronese – not least by his use of grand architectural settings.

The success of a decorative scheme was therefore clearly dependent on harmonious collaboration between the two specialists, and, once such a partnership had been established, it tended to last until one of the partners died. At Udine, Tiepolo worked for the second time with the quadrature painter Mengozzi Colonna, whose name was to be inextricably linked with Tiepolo's, and who was always to receive equal praise for the frescoes on which they collaborated.

An Influential Contemporary

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754). was a leading member of the tenebristi, whose sombre, dramatic style dominated Venetian art in the first two decades of the 17th century. Strongly influenced by Caravaggio, the tenebristi relied heavily on chiaroscuro and favored subject matter of a violent nature. Initially, Tiepolo mimicked Piazzetta's expressive use of light and shade, but later adopted a lighter palette and more fluid handling of paint.

giovanni battista piazzetta portrait

The non-conformist:
A man of strong character, Piazzetta was unusual in his refusal to comply with the fashionable taste for Rococo, and in continuing to paint in oils even though popular demand was increasingly for fresco work.

the clairvoyant, piazzetta

A powerful example:
Meticulous and serious in his approach, Piazzetta created a small but powerful body of genre and religious works. His solidly modeled figures inspired the young Tiepolo - and many others who were not so gifted.


Given the lack of commissions in Venice itself, most Venetian artists had to look for work outside the city - often choosing to do so when taxes were due. Tiepolo's stay at Udine was his first outside his native Venice, but from the 1730s onwards, with his growing reputation and need to maintain a constant flow of commissions, he spent more and more time away from home. Some of his major works of the 1730s were painted in the Lombard towns of Milan and Bergamo, and in 1736 he was even invited to decorate the Royal Palace in Stockholm. It says much for his prestige that he had to turn down this important commission because he was not offered enough money for it.

By the 1740s Tiepolo achieved full maturity as an artist, having finally rid himself of the mannerisms that were evident in many of his earlier works, such as The Sacrifice of Isaac. His contemporaries started calling him the 'new Veronese', a reference to the leading Venetian 16th-century painter, whose sumptuously colored works were now so greatly admired that Sebastiano Ricci had recently been asked to paint 'only Veroneses and no more Riccis'. This passion for Veronese in 18th-century Venice was accompanied by a revival of interest in the architecture of Veronese's great Venetian contemporary, Andrea Palladio. Significantly, at least two of the most important Veronese-inspired decorations of Tiepolo's middle years - those in the church of the Gesuati in Venice and the Villa Cordellina at Montecchio Maggiore - were executed in buildings designed by the neo Palladian architect, Giorgio Massari.

One of the people who did most to encourage Tiepolo's interest in the culture of the Venetian Renaissance was the scholar and connoisseur, Francesco Algarotti. He came to Venice in 1743 with the intention of buying old and modern pictures for the splendid art gallery of Augustus III of Prussia, a collection that Algarotti hoped to expand so as to form a systematic survey of the whole history of painting. Algarotti was deeply excited by the work of Tiepolo and became the artist's most eloquent spokesman, and the only critic to write about his work in terms that went beyond mere conventional praise.

It was undoubtedly he who helped Tiepolo find what was to be perhaps the artist's most popular subject, The Banquet of Cleopatra. The story of this banquet, in which the Egyptian queen dissolved one of her pearls in a glass of vinegar to impress Mark Antony with her phenomenal wealth, gave Tiepolo an excuse to paint a lavish festive scene in the style of Veronese. It was also a subject that flattered his rich patrons. The largest and best known of the various versions that Tiepolo painted in the 1740s was his fresco in the banqueting hall of the Palazzo Labia in Venice. The Labias, a mercantile family who had recently bought their way into the nobility, were clearly anxious to publicize their wealth as much as possible. Shortly before Tiepolo worked for them they gave a banquet at which they emulated Cleopatra's extravagant gesture by throwing into the Grand Canal their priceless silver service (this was afterward secretly retrieved by means of a hidden fishing net).

Tiepolo's own wealth was by this time so great that when his sister died in 1752 she left him nothing, with the excuse that he 'had too much already'. At the time, he was working - with the help of his sons - on his most prestigious commission to date, the decoration of the palace of Prince-Bishop Greiffenklau at Würzburg. The palace, the secular masterpiece of the outstanding German Rococo architect, Balthasar Neumann, was larger and more sumptuous than any Tiepolo would have known in Italy. He had been invited there initially to paint scenes to harmonize with the dazzling white, red, and gold stucco ceiling of the Throne Room. But such was the fame he soon gained that he was also asked to decorate the gigantic vault of the staircase hall. As with so many of his other works, the energy and eloquence with which Tiepolo painted the palace transcended the absurdity of the subject matter - scenes from the unglamorous history of Würzburg, and Greiffenklau himself ascending to the heavens, surrounded by admiring figures from the four continents.

the dentist, pietro longhi

Life's dramas:
The spectacle of Venetian life was endlessly fascinating, especially to Venetians. It was documented in such popular genre works as this - an amusing and theatrical scene.

picture of the wurzburg commision interior

The Würzburg commission:
In 1750, Tiepolo undertook a commission from the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg in Germany, to decorate the splendid Rococo Throne Room of the Würzburg Palace. The court historian supplied Tiepolo with the subject matter: a period from the Dark Ages of Würzburg history. Undaunted, Tiepolo located his scenes in the world of 16thcentury Venice - a bold, imaginative leap that delighted his patron.

the banquet at antony and cleopatra, tiepolo

The Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra:
In another vein, but with a similar theatrical aim, Tiepolo painted the lavish Antony and Cleopatra frescoes for the Labia family. Their grand scale and subject served to reflect his patrons' wealth and status.

Many of the fresco cycles that Tiepolo executed following his return to Italy in 1753 were for villas in Veneto - where he had worked before. In contrast to Venetian palaces, so many of which were designed primarily to impress, the countless villas that were erected in the Veneto in the 17th and 18th centuries were intended as modest summer retreats or to act as the center of farming activities. In 1757, Tiepolo himself acquired one such villa outside the hamlet of Zianigo near Venice, a building which his son Domenico was later to decorate with a series of amusing mythological and fantastic scenes.

Between 1757 and 1758, the two Tiepolos and Mengozzi Colonna painted a series of frescoes at the Villa Valmarana, near Vicenza. The German poet Goethe was to consider these frescoes as Tiepolo's greatest achievement, because they were more intimate in scale and less pretentious in subject-matter than the artist's usual decorations.

Tiepolo returned to what Goethe disparagingly referred to as his 'heroic manner' in the next and final villa frescoes, representing The Glory of the Pisani Family and painted for the ostentatious Villa Pisani at Strà.

While Tiepolo was engaged on his frescoes at the Villa Pisani, Charles III of Spain invited him to work in the recently completed Royal Palace in Madrid. Tiepolo appears to have been very hesitant about going, for he was an old man and probably reluctant to leave his wife and most of his family. However, he eventually set off there with Domenico and Lorenzo, in the spring of 1762, feeling perhaps that he could not turn down an offer that promised to bring his career to a particularly glorious end.

picture of tiepolo family villa, venice

The family villa:
In 1757, Tiepolo bought a newly built summer villa outside Venice. Both he and Domenico decorated it with frescoes, and it remained in the family until Domenico's death.

Domenico Tiepolo

The most talented and individual of Tiepolo's artist sons, Domenico had a flourishing independent career despite his extensive and demanding work with his father. While working with Tiepolo, Domenico showed an extraordinary ability to imitate his father's style, and his contributions to projects on which he collaborated with his father are often hard to distinguish. In his own work, Domenico's strong sense of realism was best expressed in genre scenes.

europe(detail), tiepolo

Father and son:
Domenico worked devotedly with his father for years, and like his father was a brilliant draughtsman. His gift for sharp observation complemented his father's feats of imagination and added his versatility as an assistant. Indeed, the world regarded father and son as one Tiepolo, who could create magical effects on a large or small scale.

the acrobats, domenico

A humorous vision:
Domenico's love of human comedy animates this scene of tumbling acrobats, which he painted for the Pala Rezzonico in Venice. His wit and eye f detail made him an ideal documenter the fun and follies of Venetian life.


But matters turned out unexpectedly. Even the enormous ceiling painting that he executed of The Glory of Spain must have seemed to him curiously lost in the vastness of the Royal Palace. For the first time in his life, Tiepolo also experienced serious rivalry with another artist, the court painter, Anton Raphael Mengs. According to the only anecdote relating to Tiepolo's life, Mengs one day fell from a tree while preparing to attack his rival. Tiepolo, with his characteristic niceness, stayed to see if his rival had hurt himself and had him taken to the hospital.

Despite all this, Tiepolo requested to stay in Madrid after completing the palace frescoes. The reason why he did so is a mystery, but the King granted his request and commissioned him to paint canvases for the Royal Chapel at Aranjuez. These canvases did not, however, meet with the approval of the King's confessor, who soon had them removed, to Tiepolo's humiliation. Tiepolo was never to return to Italy. He died suddenly on 27 March 1770 and was buried in Madrid, in the church of S. Martin.

picture of the royal palace, madrid

The Royal Palace, Madrid:
One of Tiepolo's last commissions was to paint frescoes for the King of Spain's Royal Palace. He was to stay in Madrid until his death in 1770.



Energy and Eloquence


The splendor of Tiepolo's fresco cycles earned his reputation as a master of decorative painting. But his religious works reveal a more intimate and poignant side to his nature.

The outstanding decorator of the 18th century, Tiepolo is an artist whose work is often dismissed today as being purely 'decorative', a word which has come to imply facile charm and lack of substance. Much of the blame for recent attitudes towards Tiepolo must lie with the 19th-century writer John Ruskin, who saw Tiepolo's art as a reflection of the decadence and 'moral decline of the Venice in which he lived.
Tiepolo tends to be seen as an artist of celestial, pastel-colored visions, and yet he began his career in a totally different vein. The painting style popular in Venice during Tiepolo's youth was dark, distorted, very violent, and heavily indebted to the art of the 16th-century Venetian painter Tintoretto. Tiepolo's first major commission - a series of canvases of scenes of Roman history for the Palazzo Dolfin - follow closely in this tradition, The Death of Brutus being a gruesome and harrowing example.
But by the end of the 1720s a preference was already developing for the medium of fresco over that of oil and canvas, and for lighter and more vivid colours. The art of Tintoretto gradually went out of fashion while that of his contemporary, Veronese, less brutal and far more sensual and decorative, began to enjoy a popularity which it had never had during the artist's lifetime. Tiepolo's brilliance as a colorist and his ability to create effects of great luminosity first became apparent in the cycle of biblical frescoes - including The Judgement of Solomon - which he painted for the Archbishop's Palace at Udine.

However, as in his earlier paintings, the gestures and facial expressions in these works were almost comically exaggerated, and it was not until well into the 1730s that he achieved the harmony of both color and composition that led him to be called 'the new Veronese'.
the death of brutus, tiepolo

The Death of Brutus (1725-30):
In this early work painted for the Palazzo Dolfin, violent gestures and dark tonality betray a clear debt to Jacopo Tintoretto.

the agony in the garden, tiepolo

The Agony in the Garden (1745-50):
In Tiepolo's moving evocation of Christ's vision on the Mount of Olives, a shaft of heavenly sunlight pierces the darkness and falls upon the suffering Christ, while crossed tree trunks behind him foretell the crucifixion.


The taste in Venice for violent scenes from ancient history came to be replaced by one for sentimental, lyrical and sensual subject-matter, generally taken from classical mythology. In the 1730s Tiepolo painted his first major mythological works, his now destroyed fresco cycles in the Palazzi Dugnani and Archinto in Milan. A superb oil sketch for one of the latter frescoes, The Harnessing of the Chariot of the Sun, illustrates Tiepolo's highly pictorial and spontaneous approach towards mythology; instead of creating a pedantic work filled with obscure classical figures, he attempted to render in the simplest, most universal terms, the passage between Night and Day, Night being brilliantly evoked by the dark shadow of a bat outlined against a haunting, moonlit landscape. Tiepolo's preference for the suggestion of mood over learned, complex exploitation of subject matter is shown also in his first series of etchings, the Scherzi (probably begun in the late 1730s), which have no powerfully atmospherical.

The scholar and art critic Francesco Algarotti urged Tiepolo in the 1740s to be more scholarly in his approach toward art, and to 'moderate somewhat his poetic fantasy.' He succeeded, with Tiepolo's first version of the Banquet of Cleopatra, in having the artist replace an ordinary jug with a classical Greek vase, but failed to have any deeper effect on him. The frescoed version of the subject, in the banqueting hall of the Palazzo Labia, is primarily a display of sumptuous textures, and is as unpedantic as the lively painted architecture - by Mengozzi Colonna - which surrounds it.

Though the Palazzo Labia frescoes are one of the memorable sights of Venice, the full force of Tiepolo as a decorator is only revealed with his frescoes in the Würzburg Residence. His first commission, the decoration of the Throne Room, is eclipsed by the vast ceiling fresco above the staircase. Along the ceiling's outer edge crowded and numerous groups represent the four continents and include such realistic details as elephants, American Indians, and - in the section illustrating Europe - a self-portrait of the artist. At the center, a massive expanse of pastel-blue sky is filled with flying figures apparently drawn towards the broad bands of pink emanating from Apollo's chariot. A celestial vision is rendered with exhilarating clarity.

apollo bringing the bride to barbarossa, tiepolo

Apollo Bringing the Bride to Barbarossa (1750-53):
Although he was asked to depict an insignificant episode from 12th-century German history for the ceiling of the Throne Room in Würzburg, Tiepolo used all his skill to create a splendid vision.

the harnessing of the chariot of the sun, tiepolo

The Harnessing of the Chariot of the Sun:
A sketch for one of the Milan frescoes. The spontaneity and drama of Tiepolo's sketches make them particularly appealing to modern eyes.

A more intimate and poignant side to Tiepolo's art is shown in the frescoes in the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza, which, for the most part, illustrate scenes from Homer's Iliad and the two 16thcentury Italian epics, Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. The frescoes in the small main room of the villa depict a moment in the Trojan War when Iphigenia has to be sacrificed by her father in order to release the becalmed Greek ships at Aulis.

The action takes place on a stage which surrounds the viewer and all eyes are turned on the goddess Diana who sweeps down from the ceiling to take away the pathetic half-naked victim. In none of the rooms does Tiepolo portray any of the heroic battle scenes described in the epics, but he deals instead with moments of great pathos, often involving frustrated love.

So often did Tiepolo paint classical and mythological scenes that one can easily forget that he was arguably the last great religious painter in Europe. His works in this field range from the brutal violence of The Martyrdom of St Agatha to the humorous (in a fresco at Bergamo, a prominently placed dog has fallen asleep while John the Baptist is preaching), and encompasses such diverse influences as Titian, Rembrandt, Bellini, Poussin, and Rubens. Perhaps the most personal and moving of his religious works are those he painted in his last years in Spain, such as The Stigmata of St Francis, which reveal a love of simple still-life details and acute responsiveness to the harshness of the Spanish environment.

Some measure of Tiepolo's overall achievement is that the Romantic artist Goya, who satirized the Spanish monarchy only 20 years after Tiepolo had glorified it, was strongly influenced by him, impressed equally by his extraordinary imagination, emotional spontaneity, and technical freedom. The last great painter in the Renaissance tradition, Tiepolo can also be called, as Ruskin did so disparagingly, 'the father of modernism'.

st francis receiving the stigmata, tiepolo

St Francis Receiving the Stigmata (c.1767-69):
This sketch for a Spanish altarpiece was one of Tiepolo's last works, but its uncharacteristic simplicity and naturalism represent a new departure in his art. The parched landscape in the background reveals Tiepolo's response to Spain's arid countryside, while the foreground details show a new interest in the depiction of still-life.

the finding of moses, tiepolo
the finding of moses(detail), tiepolo

The Finding of Moses (c.1730-40):
The finding of Moses by. Pharoah's daughter was a favorite subject among Venetian artists, who often represented it as an elaborate pageant complete with courtiers and pages. Tiepolo followed this tradition, and included fanciful costumes from different periods, making the scene look like an episode from Venetian court life transplanted into an exotic wilderness. There is nothing to suggest we are actually in Egypt. The painting depicts the moment when Moses' future hangs in the balance as Pharoah's daughter decides his fate. Her rather haughty expression is contrasted with the concern on the face of the woman beside her.


Illusionistic Ceilings

Illusionistic ceilings originated in antiquity and were revived in the late 15th century. Various devices were used to suggest real space: Correggio's cupola has an 'oculus' open to the sky, while other ceilings have imaginary architectural frameworks with painted balconies 'extending' the actual space of the room. In the Baroque period, artists opened up their ceilings, pushing architecture to the edges and painting the centre as an apparently limitless space. Delacroix's ceiling follows this tradition.

apollo triumphs over the serpent python, eugene delacroix

Eugène Delacroix Apollo Triumphs over the Serpent Python:
In Delacroix's ceiling to the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre showing Apollo vanquishing the powers of evil, the figures are seen from different viewpoints, and the depiction of space appears highly irrational.

the assumption of the virgin, correggio(antonio allegri)

Correggio (Antonio Allegri) (c.1494-1534) The Assumption of the Virgin:
Correggio filled the cupola of the Parma Duomo with dramatically foreshortened figures who look as though they are flung outwards by some centrifugal force emanating from the centre.



Tiepolo's allegorical depiction of Europe forms part of his magnificent ceiling fresco over the staircase in the Residenz at Würzburg. Painted between 1752 and 1753, the ceiling shows the Four Continents paying homage to the PrinceBishop Carl Philipp von Greiffenklau. Europe is represented by a richly-dressed woman seated on a dais, surrounded by figures symbolizing the arts and court dignitaries. Above, Apollo and other mythological deities pay homage to a portrait of the Prince. The fresco is a masterpiece of illusionism with painted figures posed securely along the edge of the ceiling panel, while above, graceful gods hang in an apparently limitless space that seems to extend the staircase into the heavens.

europe, tiepolo
picture of wurzburg ceiling

Flights of fantasy:
The full scale and splendor of the ceiling are revealed as the visitor ascends the staircase to the first landing. Immediately in front of him is the fresco representing Europe. Viewed from this angle, the figures are seen to their best advantage, the dramatic foreshortening adding to the illusion of their physical presence.

europe(detail), tiepolo

The Prince-Bishop:
The Prince-Bishop Carl Philipp von Greiffenklau may have been only a very minor figure in German history but his portrait is borne triumphantly aloft by putti, while Fame trumpets his name to the four continents.

europe(detail), tiepolo

Portrait of the architect:
An officer reclines in the foreground beneath a group of musicians. He is probably Balthasar Neumann, the architect of the Residenz.

europe(detail), tiepolo

Exotic animals:
Elsewhere on the ceiling, the figure of Asia sits astride an elephant. Tiepolo was given ample opportunity to indulge his love of the exotic by including strange animals and bizarre costumes in these imaginative, allegorical frescoes.


Tiepolo was the last in the line of great Italian decorative painters and in the course of his long and immensely prolific career he produced work that for sheer breathtaking splendor can compare with the finest of any place or time. Like Rubens before him, Tiepolo could make even the most ponderous allegory come alive and he had what seemed to be an effortless ability to cover vast ceilings with glorious figures who soar through the heavens. The finest examples are at the Residenz at Würzburg, where he created one of the supreme masterpieces of European painting, but his splendid pageantry can be seen also in canvases such as The Banquet of Cleopatra.

Tiepolo had a more serious side, however, which comes out in religious paintings such as the poignant Martyrdom of St Agatha. And although he excelled most of all working on a huge scale, he could be brilliant in much more intimate pictures, as Young Woman with a Mandolin and Young Woman with a Parrot vividly demonstrate.

the judgement of solomon, tiepolo

The Judgement of Solomon c.1727-28:
This painting is part of Tiepolo's first major fresco cycle. It was commissioned by Dionisio Dolfin and the building the frescoes adorn was originally called the Palazzo Dolfin. The ceiling of the Sala Rosso' on which The Judgement of Solomon is painted is fairly low, but Tiepolo has succeeded magnificently in creating a sense of space and depth. In the Old Testament, King Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, was renowned for his wisdom, and the story of the Judgement of Solomon (1 Kings 3: 16-28) is the most famous illustration of this. Two women had babies at the same time, but one infant died. The childless woman claimed that the living baby belonged to her and the dispute came before the king. 'Cut the living child in two and give half to one and a half to the other, he said, at which the true mother renounced her claim so that the child might be saved. Solomon then had the baby restored to her. The subject was seen as prefiguring The Last Judgement and was also used as a symbol of Justice in general.

the banquet of cleopatra, tiepolo

The Banquet of Cleopatra 1743-44:
Tiepolo painted this subject several times. This picture was ordered by the critic, Count Francesco Algarotti, a friend of Tiepolo, for King Augustus III of Saxony. It was not to the king's taste, however, and he banished it to a hunting lodge and eventually sold it. The painting has a 16th-century setting and recalls the work of Tiepolo's great Venetian predecessor Paolo Veronese, whom he rivals in the richness of invention and splendor of execution. According to legend, Mark Antony expressed surprise at the magnificence of a banquet to which he was invited by Cleopatra and she thereupon showed her ostentation even more by removing a precious pearl earring and dissolving it in her wine, which she then drank.

the martyrdom of st agatha, tiepolo

The Martyrdom of St Agatha c.1745-50:
One of Tiepolo's most moving altarpieces, this was painted for the high altar of the church of St Agatha of the Benedictine nuns of Lendinara. St Agatha was a virgin martyr of Sicily, whose tortures, for refusing to yield to the amorous advances of a Roman official, included having her breasts shorn off.

young woman with a mandolin, tiepolo

Young Woman with a Mandolin c.1758-60:
It is regrettable that Tiepolo painted so few portraits, for this and the picture on the opposite page are done with great vivacity and beguiling charm. Although evidently painted from the model, they are probably not intended as straightforward portraits, but rather have some allegorical significance.

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