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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista - Fresken Treppenhaus des Würzburger Residenzschlosses, Szenen zur Apotheose des Fürstbischofs, Detail Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - 1750-1753.jpg
Self-portrait (1750–1753), from the ceiling fresco in the Würzburg Residence
Born (1696-03-05)5 March 1696
Died 27 March 1770(1770-03-27) (aged 74)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality Italian
Other names Gianbattista Tiepolo, Giambattista Tiepolo
Known for Painting
Movement Rococo

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (/tiˈɛpəl/ TEE-ep-Ə-loh, Italian: [dʒoˈvanni batˈtista ˈtjɛːpolo, ˈtjeː- ]; 5 March 1696 – 27 March 1770), also known as Giambattista (or Gianbattista) Tiepolo, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice who painted in the Rococo style, considered an important member of the 18th-century Venetian school. He was prolific, and worked not only in Italy, but also in Germany and Spain.

Giovan Battista Tiepolo, together with Giambattista Pittoni, Canaletto, Giovan Battista Piazzetta, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, and Francesco Guardi are considered the traditional Old Masters of that period.

Successful from the beginning of his career, he has been described by Michael Levey as "the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman."


Accademia - Giambattista Tiepolo, San Domenico in gloria 1723
The Glory of St. Dominic, 1723
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Scipio Africanus Freeing Massiva - Walters 37657
Scipio Africanus Freeing Massiva shows Massiva, the nephew of a prince of Numidia, being released after capture by Scipio Africanus. Walters Art Museum.
Giambattista Tiepolo - The Banquet of Cleopatra - Google Art Project
The Banquet of Cleopatra, 1743–44

Early life (1696–1726)

Born in Venice, he was the youngest of six children of Domenico and Orsetta Tiepolo. His father was a small shipping merchant who belonged to a family that bore the prestigious patrician name of Tiepolo without claiming any noble descent. Some of the children acquired noble godparents, and Giambattista was originally named after his godfather, a Venetian nobleman called Giovanni Battista Dorià. He was baptised on 16 April 1696 in the local church, San Pietro di Castello (then still officially the cathedral of Venice). His father died about a year later, leaving his mother to bring up a family of young children, presumably in somewhat difficult circumstances.

In 1710 he became a pupil of Gregorio Lazzarini, a successful painter with an eclectic style. He was, though, at least equally strongly influenced by his study of the works of other contemporary artists such as Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and those of his Venetian predecessors, especially Tintoretto and Veronese. A biography of his teacher, published in 1732, says that Tiepolo "departed from [Lazzarini's] studied manner of painting, and, all spirit and fire, embraced a quick and resolute style". His earliest known works are depictions of the apostles, painted in spandrels as part of the decoration of the church of the Ospedoletto in Venice in 1715–6. At about the same time he became painter to the Doge, Giovanni II Cornaro, and oversaw the hanging of pictures at his palace, as well as painting many works himself, of which only two portraits have been identified. He painted his first fresco in 1716, on the ceiling of a church at Biadene, near Treviso. He probably left Lazzarini's studio in 1717, the year he was received into the Fraglia or guild of painters.

In around 1719–20 he painted a scheme of frescoes for the wealthy, and recently ennobled, publisher Giambattista Baglione in the hall of his villa at Massanzago near Padua. Tiepolo depicted the Triumph of Aurora on the ceiling, and the Myth of Phaethon on the walls, creating the kind of fluid spatial illusion which was to become a recurring theme in his work.

In 1722 he was one of twelve artists commissioned to contribute a painting on canvas of one of the apostles as part of a decorative scheme for the nave of San Stae in Venice. The other artists involved included Ricci, Piazetta, and Pellegrini.

Marriage and children

In 1719, Tiepolo married noblewoman Maria Cecilia Guardi, sister of two contemporary Venetian painters, Francesco and Giovanni Antonio Guardi. Tiepolo and his wife had nine children, of whom four daughters and three sons survived to adulthood. Two of his sons, Domenico and Lorenzo, painted with him as his assistants and later achieved some independent recognition, in particular Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. His children painted figures with a design similar to that of their father, but with distinctive, including genre, styles. His third son became a priest. Fabio Canal, Francesco Lorenzi, and Domenico Pasquini were among his pupils.

Early mature work (1726–1750)

Tiepolo - Perseus and Andromeda, ca. 1730–31
Perseus and Andromeda, 1730–1731

Some major commissions came from the patrician Dolfin family. Dionisio Dolfin, the Archbishop of Udine in Friuli employed him to decorate a chapel in the cathedral at Udine, and then to paint another cycle depicting episodes from the lives of Abraham and his descendants from the Book of Genesis at his archiepiscopal palace (the "Arcivescovado") (completed 1726–1728). Despite their elevated subject matter, they are bright in colour, and light-hearted in mood: Michael Levey describes the paintings at the palace as "a shimmering set of tableaux, full of wit and elegance". Tiepolo used a much cooler palette than previous Venetian painters, in order to create a convincing effect of daylight. His first masterpieces in Venice were a cycle of ten enormous canvases painted to decorate a large reception room of Ca' Dolfin on the Grand Canal of Venice (ca. 1726–1729), depicting battles and triumphs from the history of ancient Rome.

These early masterpieces, innovative amongst Venetian frescoes for their luminosity, brought him many commissions. He painted canvases for churches such as that of Verolanuova (1735–1740), for the Scuola dei Carmini (1740–1747), in Cannaregio, a ceiling for the Palazzi Archinto and Casati-Dugnani in Milan (1731), the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (1732–1733), a ceiling for the Gesuati (Santa Maria del Rosario) in Venice of St. Dominic Instituting the Rosary (1737–1739), Palazzo Clerici, Milan (1740), decorations for Villa Cordellina Molin, a ceiling for the Chiesa degli Scalzi (1743–1744); now destroyed (reconstitution :), Villa Cordellina, at Montecchio Maggiore (1743–1744) and for the ballroom of the Palazzo Labia in Venice (now a television studio), showing the Story of Cleopatra (1745–1750).


Tiepolo produced two sets of etchings, the Capricci (c. 1740–1742) and the Scherzi di fantasia (c. 1743–1757). The ten capricci were first published by Anton Maria Zanetti, incorporated into the third edition of a compilation of woodcuts after Parmigiano. They were not published separately until 1785. The subject matter is often bizarre and fantastical, and the works owe a lot to the example of Salvator Rosa and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. The 23 Scherzi were etched over more than ten years and privately circulated, only being commercially published after Tiepolo's death, with numbers and titles added by his son, Giandomenico. Subjects include mysterious Eastern figures, and, in some of the later prints, scenes of necromancy.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 034
Apotheosis of Spain, 1762–1766, Royal Palace of Madrid
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Wealth and Benefits of the Spanish Monarchy under Charles III, 1762, NGA 12137
Wealth and Benefits of the Spanish Monarchy under Charles III, 1762, National Gallery of Art

Würzburg Residenz (1750–1753)

By 1750, Tiepolo's reputation was firmly established throughout Europe, with the help of his friend Francesco Algarotti, an art dealer, critic and collector. That year, at the behest of Prince Bishop Karl Philip von Greiffenklau, he traveled to Würzburg where he arrived in November 1750. He remained there for three years during which he executed ceiling paintings in the New Residenz palace (completed 1744). He frescoed the Kaisersaal salon in collaboration with his sons Giandomenico and Lorenzo and was then invited to deliver a design for the grandiose entrance staircase (Treppenhaus) designed by Balthasar Neumann. It is a massive ceiling fresco at 7287 square feet (677 m2), and was completed in November 1753. His Allegory of the Planets and Continents depicts Apollo embarking on his daily course; deities around him symbolize the planets; allegorical figures (on the cornice) represent the four continents. He included several portraits in the Europe section of this fresco, including a self-portrait; one of his son Giandomenico; one of the prince-bishop von Greiffenklau; one of the painter Antonio Bossi; and one of the architect, Balthasar Neumann.

Return to Venice and the Veneto (1753–1770)

Tiepolo returned to Venice in 1753. He was now in demand locally, as well as abroad where he was elected President of the Academy of Padua. He went on to complete theatrical frescoes for churches; the Triumph of Faith for the Chiesa della Pietà; panel frescos for Ca' Rezzonico (which now also houses his ceiling fresco from the Palazzo Barbarigo); and paintings for patrician villas in the Venetian countryside, such as Villa Valmarana in Vicenza and an elaborate panegyric ceiling for the Villa Pisani in Stra.

In some celebrated frescoes at the Palazzo Labia, he depicted two scenes from the life of Cleopatra: Meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra and Banquet of Cleopatra, as well as, in a central ceiling fresco, the Triumph of Bellerophon over Time. Here he collaborated with Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna. This connection with Colonna, who also designed sets for opera, highlights the increasing tendency towards composition as a staged fiction in Tiepolo's frescoes. The architecture of the Banquet fresco also recalls that of Veronese's Wedding at Cana. In 1757, he painted an altar piece for the Thiene family, representing the apotheosis of Saint Cajetan. It is in the church of hamlet of Rampazzo in the Camisano Vicentino.


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Los hebreos recogiendo el maná en el desierto (boceto) - Google Art Project
Manna in the desert

In 1761, Charles III commissioned Tiepolo to create a ceiling fresco to decorate the throne room of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The panegyric theme is the Apotheosis of Spain and has allegorical depictions recalling the dominance of Spain in the Americas and across the globe.

He also painted two other ceilings in the palace, and carried out many private commissions in Spain. However he suffered from the jealousy and the bitter opposition of the rising champion of Neoclassicism, Anton Raphael Mengs; at the instigation of Mengs' supporter, the King's confessor Joaquim de Electa, had Tiepolo's series of canvases for the church of S. Pascual at Aranjuez replaced by works by his favourite.

Tiepolo died in Madrid on 27 March 1770. He is buried in Madonna dell'Orto in Venice

After his death, the rise of a stern Neoclassicism and the post-revolutionary decline of absolutism led to the slow decline of the Rococo style associated with his name, but failed to dent his reputation. In 1772, Tiepolo's son was sufficiently respected to be painter to Doge Giovanni II Cornaro, in charge of the decoration of Palazzo Mocenigo in the sestiere of San Polo, Venice.


List of works

Paintings before 1740

Work Date Location Link
Scipio Africanus Freeing Massiva between 1719 and 1721 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA
The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew 1722 San Stae, Venice
The Glory of St. Dominic 1723 Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Allegory of the Power of Eloquence c. 1725 Courtauld Institute, Modello for Palazzo Sandi, Venice
Frescoes 1726 Episcopal palace, Udine
Ca' Dolfin Tiepolos 1726–1729 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Perseus & Andromeda 1730 Frick Collection
Education of the Virgin 1732 Santa Maria della Consolazione (Fava), Venice
Angel rescuing Hagar 1732 Scuola di San Rocco, Venice
John the Baptist preaching 1732–1733 Cappella Colleoni, Bergamo
Beheading of John the Baptist 1732–1733 Cappella Colleoni, Bergamo
Scourge of the Serpents 1732–1735 Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Joseph receiving ring from pharaoh 1732–1735 Dulwich Picture Gallery
Triumph of Zephyr and Flora 1734–1735 Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice
Jupiter and Danaë 1736 Universitet Konsthistoriska Institutionen, Stockholm
The Finding of Moses 1736–1738 National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity 1737–1738 Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Saint Augustin, Saint Louis of France, Saint John the Evangelist and a bishop 1737–1738 Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
Institution of the Rosary 1737–1739 Church of the Gesuati, Venice
Christ Carrying the Cross 1737–1738 Sant'Alvise, Venice
The Madonna of Mount Carmel 1730s Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Virgin with Six Saints 1737–1740 Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Works from 1740–1750

Work Date Location Link
The Virgin with 3 female Dominican Saints 1739–1748 Church of the Gesuati, Venice
Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles 1740 Getty Center, Los Angeles
The Virgin Appearing to St. Philip Neri 1740 Museo Diocesano, Camerino
The Gathering of Manna 1740–1742 Parrocchiale, Verolanuova
The Sacrifice of Melchizedek 1740–1742 Parrocchial church, Verolanuova
The Finding of Moses 1740–1745 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Rinaldo Enchanted by Armida 1742 Art Institute of Chicago
Rinaldo and Armida in Her Garden 1742 Art Institute of Chicago
Armida Abandoned by Rinaldo 1742 Art Institute of Chicago
Rinaldo and the Magus of Ascalon 1742 Art Institute of Chicago
The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over Ignorance 1743 Norton Simon Museum, (Pasadena, CA)
Empire of Flora 1743 The Legion of Honor, (San Francisco, CA)
Time Unveiling Truth c. 1743 Museo Civico Palazzo Chiericati, Vicenza
The Banquet of Cleopatra 1743–1744 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Worshippers 1743–1745 Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Apollo and Daphne 1755–1760 National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Discovery of the True Cross c. 1745 Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Time Unveiling Truth c. 1745–1750 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Frescoes of the story of Cleopatra 1746 Palazzo Labia, Venice
Saint Patrick, Bishop of Ireland 1746 Musei Civici di Padova, Padua
Last Communion of St. Lucy 1747–1748 Santi Apostoli, Venice
The Banquet of Cleopatra and Antony 1747–1750 North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
The Glorification of the Barbaro Family 1749–1750 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
St. James the Greater Conquering the Moors 1749–1750 Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary
Bacchus and Ariadne 1743–1745 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Works after 1750

Work Date Location Link
Frescoes 1751–1753 Residenz, Würzburg
Collecting Manna c. 1751 National Museum of Serbia, Belgrade
Allegory of Planets and Continents 1752 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Death of Hyacinth 1752–1753 Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid
Adoration of the Magi 1753 Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Coronation of the Virgin 1754 Kimbell Art Museum, Dallas (modelo for Ospedale della Pietà)
The Entrance of the Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini into Florence in 1502 (L'ingresso di gonfaloniere Piero Soderini in Firenze nel 1502) 1754 Swiss Ambassy, Roma, Italy
An Allegory with Venus and Time 1754–1758 National Gallery, London, England
Frescoes from Roman mythology 1757 Villa Valmarana, Vicenza
A Seated Man and a Girl with a Pitcher c. 1755 National Gallery, London
The Theological Virtues c. 1755 Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
The Martyrdom of St. Agatha c. 1756 Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany
Allegory of Merit Accompanied by Nobility and Virtue 1757–1758 Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice
Santa Tecla prays for the Liberation of Este from the Plague 1759 Church of Santa Tecla, Este
Pope St. Sylvester baptises emperor Constantine the Great 1759 Chiesa di San Silvestro, Brescia
The Vision of St. Anne 1759 Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Virtue and Nobility Crowning Love 1759–1761 Museum of Fine Arts
Modello for the Apotheosis of the Pisani Family 1760 Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Angers
Madonna of the Goldfinch c. 1760 National Gallery of Art, Washington
Woman with a Parrot 1760–1761 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Apotheosis of the Pisani Family 1761–1762 Villa Pisani, Stra
San Carlo Borromeo 1767–1769 Cincinnati Art Museum
The Immaculate Conception 1767–1769 Museo del Prado, Madrid
Glory of Spain 1762–1766 Throne Room of Royal Palace of Madrid
The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy 1762–1766 Queen's Antechamber, Palacio Real, Madrid
Venus and Vulcan 1762–1766 Halberdiers' Room, Palacio Real, Madrid
The Entombment of Christ 1769–1770 National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon
The Flight to Egypt 1765–1770 National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon

See also

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