Battista Tiepolo

Italia • 1696−1770

Biography and information

Italian painter, born in Castello di SanPietro, near Venice, in 1696, studied with Greg. Lazzarini, but finally formed under the influence of J.-B. Piazzetta, and especially through the study of the works of P. Veronese, whom he later imitated in his many wall and ceiling frescoes. At first, until 1750, he worked hard at decorating with churches. Upon his return to Venice, in 1755-1758 he was the director of the Academy of Fine Arts there, in 1761 he went to the Spanish royal court in Madrid, showed his extraordinary prolific artistic activity there and died in 1770.


In the process of finding his own manner, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's interest aroused the painting of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Under his influence, the painting of the Venetian church of Ospedaletto on the plot “The Sacrifice of Isaac” (1715-1716) and the altar image “Execution of St. Bartholomew ”(Church of San Stae, Venice). Large "fresco" spots of flowers remind Piazzetta's pictorial style. The desire to overcome the baroque pathetic of Lazzarini and find his own style makes the artist turn to the painting of the Venetian Sebastiano Ricci. The significant work of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1726-1730 was the murals of the Archbishop's Palace in Udine, commissioned by the Patriarch of Aquileia Dionisio Dolphin, whose activities were associated with this city. The novelty of the approach to the techniques of pictorial decoration and the attempt to use elements of the “Neo-Veronezovsky” Ricci style in this regard was manifested in the frescoes of the three ceiling lights of the gallery, the ceiling of the Red Hall, the ceiling of the staircase, and the frescoes of the gallery walls. They are filled with bright light colors. The picturesque cycle of the Archbishop's Palace against the background of white and gilded stucco molding looks festive. The perspective architectural decorations painted in a sharp angle in the murals of plafonds, as in the works of S. Ricci, create the effect of involving the audience in space. The artist transforms the language of Ricci and Piazzetta's painting into his individual style, preserving further independence in relation to the self-valuable elements of the tradition.


In the mid-1720s, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo created a cycle of ten panels on themes from ancient history for the Venetian palace of Dionisio Dolphin (five panels are in the Hermitage; two in the Vienna Museum of Art and History; two in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). The series of murals created by the artist includes historical scenes of triumphs, battles, glorifying the victories of the Romans in all parts of the world and, possibly, inspired by the events of Venetian modern history - victories over the Turks at the beginning of the century. The world of ancient and Christian myths exists in the imagination of the artist inseparably, as a kind of legendary historical past, from the scenes from which he gives the dramatic sound or lyrical character of fairy-tale magic. In these heroic stories, Tiepolo in allegorical form glorified the civic virtues of the Dolphin family, which played a prominent role in the history of Venice.

In the paintings of the Venetian palazzo Labia (1746) on a plot from the ancient history of Tiepolo creates interior decoration subordinate to a single decorative concept. On the walls of the hall in illusory architectural frames in the spirit of Veronese are depicted the scenes “Meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra in Tiers” and “Feast of Anthony and Cleopatra”.

The ceiling is decorated with a fresco depicting Zephyr and Flora in an oval-shaped ceiling, and a Pegasus figure soars above them. The artist interprets the plot from Plutarch as the theme of the victory of love, contempt for its power, embodying it in a majestic vivid pictorial performance. The central characters presented in Venetian costumes of the 16th century complement this picture of the traditional Venetian festival, becoming similar to the actors on the podium, bringing into the atmosphere theatrical travesty. Tiepolo's contemporaries admired the artist’s ability to create grandiose fresco ensembles, like any baroque painting involving spectators.


In the 1730-1740s, Tiepolo created numerous altar images in the Venetian churches (San Alvise, circa 1740; dei Gesuati, 1748) and the high school (philanthropic fraternities: Grande di San Rocco, 1732; Grande dei Carmine, 1740-43). Even in the most dramatic scenes, the events taking place are moderated by the reproduction of characteristic details, lively facial expressions of the characters' faces, freedom of posture, and colorful costumes. Along with the images of the legendary history, the painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo creates a series of murals in which a new understanding of allegory, consonant with the aesthetic ideals of the century, is manifested. With a light, refined grace, the allegory is executed in the manner of Venetian virtuosos in the paintings of the plafond of the central hall of the Villa Cordellin-Lombardi in Montecchio Maggiore near Vicenza (1743-1744), the Venetian palazzo Rezzonico (1743), near the plafonds of the halls of the villa Loski Dzieneri 34 “Venice accepts the gift of Neptune” (1745-1750) for the hall of the Four Doors of the Doge's Palace.

Contemporaries who wrote about the artist have always noted the individuality of his personality and talent. It is known that he was a gallant, pleasant person with an ironic mind. In 1756, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo became president of the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and directed the largest art orders, exhibitions, competitions, and the creation of a gallery of doge portraits for the Doge's Palace. Since 1750, Tiepolo worked mainly outside Italy. Fantasy, the decorative scope characteristic of his painting, appeared in the murals of the Archbishop's residence of the palace in Würzburg (1750-53). The depicted mythological and allegorical characters are combined into a theatrical action created by the artist’s imagination, striking with an abundance of light and colorfulness. The plot was designed to glorify the kingdom of Franconia, the wise rule of Prince Bishop K.F. von Greifenklau.

After the cycle in Würzburg, the milestone was the painting of the Villa Wilmaran near Vicenza (1757). The artist worked here with his son J. Domenico, he himself decorated the atrium, four halls of the villa and the garden pavilion (foresterium) with frescoes, where he painted only one Olympus fresco. Episodes from the works of Homer, Tasso, Virgil, Ariosto unfold in landscapes, as if expanding the space of the halls. The Palladian type of a country villa contributed to the embodiment by the artist of aesthetic representations of the Enlightenment century on the harmony of architecture and nature. The idea of superiority of feelings over rationalistic thinking in imitation of nature has become central to the program of painting Villa Valmaran. In choosing themes and their picturesque incarnation, Giovanni Battista Tiepoloo was able to programmatically express the ideals of the Venetian painting of the Enlightenment with its innovative special understanding of pictoriality, a cult of feeling. The plots responded to the perception of the world of Tiepolo, allowing you to turn to the traditional pastoral genre, to show the power of imagination.