When in 1770 the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo died, very suddenly, in Madrid (to which he had been summoned to fresco the royal palace), he was already aged seventy-four, and he must certainly have realized that he had been, for at least a generation or so, the most admired Italian painter of his time. But he could not possibly have foreseen the two factors that were to weigh most heavily with posterity in appraising the nature of his genius: in the first place, within less than thirty years it would be evident that the Europe that had acclaimed him with such enthusiasm had vanished forever; and secondly, as the decades succeeded each other thereafter, it would become ever more apparent that he was to be the very last Italian painter to make a major impact on the art and taste of the world.
So obvious, so startling, and so enduring has been the impact of these two circumstances that, right up to our own day, it has proved to be almost impossible for any commentator to avoid taking account of them (though not always consciously) when trying to estimate his achievement. This is so despite the fact that neither could have been of any relevance to that achievement. On balance, it seems likely that his posthumous reputation has benefited from this state of affairs, because in most spheres of creative life it is an advantage to be considered exceptional rather than typical, even in matters of decadence and corruption, and also because some kind of glamour invariably attaches itself to the last of anything.
In fact, Tiepolo’s reputation has always stood somewhat higher than might have been expected, although admittedly it remained within fairly narrow confines for about a hundred years following his death. He hardly ever attracted the venomous scorn that, even in his lifetime and for long afterward, was to be poured on his slightly younger French contemporary Boucher, who was accused of representing a serious threat to the national tradition, and he was consistently admired by a long series of discriminating artists and critics. One of the keenest of these was the very man who was to be acclaimed as having broken with the recent past so as to inaugurate a completely new era in Italian art—the “neo-classical” sculptor, Antonio Canova, who ardently collected drawings and sketches by Tiepolo. Many of the Romantics—including Delacroix—thought highly of him, and during the period of the Second Empire, his very weaknesses pleaded in his favor: “charmant peintre, grand maître de la décadence,” rhapsodized Gauthier in 1851, and nearly two decades later another French critic wrote that
Tiepolo, the last Venetian, is not a master: he has neither the deep soul nor the strict self-discipline [science sévère] of the great painters who preceded him. But what an admirable decadent! What verve and what fire! What grace and richness in his compositions!
A few years later still Jean-Louis Forain’s comparison of Tiepolo to the fashionable designer of posters Jules Chéret was certainly intended as a compliment to the Venetian. “It’s his way of showing his admiration,” commented Degas dryly, “and it’s perhaps no worse than any other.”1
Such jaunty, though well-meaning, assessments could hardly satisfy the authors of the fine scholarly monographs—mainly in German and Italian—which began to appear in the early years of the present century, but, on the whole, attitudes to Tiepolo did not change very significantly, at least as far as the average art lover (and a limited number of collectors) were concerned. He was seen as somewhat superficial, but a great colorist, full of energy and charm—if the Venetian school had to come to an end, at least it was doing so in style. As far as I know, only Berenson, writing in 1894, tried to penetrate more deeply, but his ideas were not to be developed until fifty years later. For him the quality of Tiepolo’s art places him “almost on a level with the great Venetians of the sixteenth century,” but, unlike Veronese (to whom he owed so much), he lacked simplicity and candor. His people are haughty. “They evidently feel themselves so superior that they are not pleasant to live with…. It was Tiepolo’s vision of the world that was at fault, and his vision of the world was at fault only because the world itself was at fault.”
So many of Tiepolo’s greatest works were frescoes and altarpieces painted for palaces and churches in Venice, Northern Italy, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere that it has never been remotely difficult for anyone at all interested to become familiar with him. But it is probably true to claim that the full extent of his genius only dawned on—or, at least, was confirmed for—a wide public through that most potent (and often misleading) medium of communication, the Old Master Exhibition. In 1951 about a hundred of his paintings and another hundred drawings, as well as his two sets of etchings, were shown (along with others by his extremely talented son Giandomenico) in the pavilions built for the Biennale in the Giardini in Venice. In fact the catalog, which consists of some two hundred pages of sparse but useful information, illustrated with small black-and-white photographs, and which could fit comfortably into an overcoat pocket, gives no indication of this (somewhat surprising) location.
The occasion was, however, of much greater significance than is suggested by such brief, and almost prehistoric, material vestiges. In 1935 the city of Venice had taken the then unusual step of embarking on a series of biennial monographic exhibitions devoted to its greatest painters. Titian had, naturally enough, been chosen to inaugurate the series, and he was followed by Tintoretto and Veronese. After the interruption of the war it was the turn of Giovanni Bellini in 1949. Thus the Tiepolo exhibition of two years later marked the official acceptance into the Pantheon of supreme Venetian masters of this eighteenth-century “decadent”—ahead, incidentally, of Lotto in 1953 and Giorgione in 1955.
Yet paradoxically it was only a few years earlier that the art of Tiepolo had been subjected to the most damaging attack that it had yet had to face—the memory of which still haunts nearly every Italian who writes about him, despite repeated attempts to dismiss it as an outdated historical curiosity.
In 1945, just after the end of the war and at a time when most of the museums in Italy were still closed, an exhibition was mounted in Venice called “Five Centuries of Venetian Art.” About two hundred pictures retrieved from storage and various hidden depots were displayed at the Procuratie Nuove, and since many of them were celebrated masterpieces which had not been seen for five miserable years, the effect must have been overwhelming. Yet today the exhibition is chiefly remembered for the sparkling and provocative commentary that it inspired from the fifty-five-year-old Roberto Longhi, the most brilliant Italian art historian of our century and a stylist of intoxicating powers. Longhi encouraged in his followers the sort of fanatical (or craven?) loyalty that is more often associated with the demagogic politicians of the period than with university professors.2 In his “Journey through Five Centuries of Venetian Art” Longhi did not confine his judgments only to what was on view at the exhibition, but produced a very personal, wide-ranging, and highly concentrated survey, ranging from the Gothic masters of the fourteenth century to Antonio Canova, “the sculptor born dead, whose heart is in [the church of] the Frari, whose hand is at the Academy, and the rest I don’t know where. From now on there was nothing further that could be done. Italian art was finished for more than a century.”
However, despite this famous boutade, it was Tiepolo whom Longhi held chiefly responsible for the death of Italian art, precisely because he had not been “born dead,” as Canova had been, but had cynically misused his prodigious gifts. If only he had limited himself to the brilliant preliminary oil sketches that he made for his paintings, he would have ranked with the greatest artists of the eighteenth century.3 By completing them he turned them into the equivalent of Technicolor costume films. Far more serious for Longhi was the fact that Tiepolo revered, without believing in, the pompous world of allegory, mythology, history, and religion that he created in his huge frescoes and altarpieces. He was a man who lacked principles and who worshiped power and wealth for their own sakes; had he lived forty years longer he would have been just as ready to glorify the Revolution, Napoleon, and the Restoration, as he had earlier glorified the ancien régime. His arrogant skepticism had cost Italian painting too dear, “for an artist is always responsible for his posthumous votaries and followers,” and in the case of Tiepolo these had been the official painters and critics of Italy during the first part of the twentieth century, many of whom had been closely linked to the government.
Longhi’s denunciation of Tiepolo as an advocate of pomposity, cynicism, and costume drama, when read in the context both of his views on other artists he discusses in the same essay and of an imaginary dialogue, published a few years later, between Caravaggio and Tiepolo, can be seen as having been inspired by extreme distaste for the triumphalism of Mussolini’s regime. The onslaught is, however, equally relevant (though it is unlikely that Longhi would have appreciated this) to the position of those many prominent intellectuals who, like himself, had switched their sympathies, without any obvious signs of discomfort, from Fascism to communism.
Although Longhi’s criticism was intended to belittle Tiepolo’s reputation—and has always been interpreted in this way—it could be argued that its actual implications are very different. To attach significance to Tiepolo’s beliefs and principles (even if only to denounce his lack of them) and to his exaltation of wealth and power (even if only to ridicule the pretensions of the “Catholic aristocracy of eighteenth-century courts,” who seemed to embody these attributes for him) was to assign to the artist a far more serious role than that of a charming, if decadent, purveyor of scintillating colors.
In any case most people’s problem with Tiepolo today is likely to be very different. Although every age has its anxieties and fears, the placid self-assurance that seems so characteristic of Europe in the middle years of the eighteenth century makes that historical period in some ways more difficult for us to comprehend than the witch-persecuting horrors of the late Middle Ages or the religious butchery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Moreover, unlike Tiepolo, who openly proclaimed that “painters should aim to succeed in great works that give pleasure to the nobility and men of wealth,” we are most reluctant to admit that the finest art can flourish in harmony with the ruling classes and without the tensions that beset us now, so that, where necessary, we try to detect such tensions in the art of the past (“pre-revolutionary tremors,” for instance). And when we are unable to do so we tend to dismiss the art as superficial or hypocritical or no more than technically accomplished.
Tiepolo is the supreme example of an artist who resists such an approach and who “accepts the Universe” without qualms. He is not at all “difficult,” except only in the sense that we find it difficult to understand an artist of such superlative qualities (including, pace Longhi, those of sincerity and depth) who belonged so unequivocally to his own times. We are unable to annex him for ourselves, as we have done with Watteau (the inventor of the “sad clown”) or as we can even try to do with his son Giandomenico (whose wonderfully evocative drawings of Punchinello—at play, but also in prison and on his deathbed—can be visualized as timeless symbols of the human condition.)4 Tiepolo did not—so I believe—even exert any significant influence on such “modern” artists as Goya, whose anxieties seem so close to ours. We need to take him on his own terms, and only then will we be able to appreciate his true quality.
The earliest of the three exhibitions held to celebrate the tercentenary of Tiepolo’s birth in 1696 gave visitors to Würzburg between February and May a fine opportunity to test for themselves whether they shared Longhi’s “irritation that Tiepolo had reserved his masterpieces in fresco to the greater glory of an historical colossus of the stature of Carl Philipp von Greiffenclau, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg.” In fact, although issues of this kind did not appear to be of any concern to the enormous and enthusiastic crowds that flocked into the Prince’s Residenz to gaze up at the frescoes above them, Longhi makes a valid point in drawing to our attention the fact that nowhere else in the whole history of recorded art can one find a greater disparity between the insignificance of the patron and the supreme grandeur of the artist’s response. But it seems to me that it is admiration rather than irritation that is called for. Should not the capacity to metamorphose the ridiculous into the sublime be looked upon as one of the defining proofs of Tiepolo’s genius?
The exhibition brought together a remarkable group of drawings related to his frescoes in the Residenz itself—drawings whose exact purpose and, sometimes, even authorship remain very controversial (for Tiepolo’s sons worked with him on the enterprise)—as well as a number of paintings (of varying quality) produced by the family team for other patrons in the region during the three years that its members stayed in Germany. Inevitably, however, it was the frescoes themselves, newly restored and cleaned for the occasion, that attracted most attention. Thanks to the two-volume catalog5 and, still more, to the valuable and beautifully illustrated book (in English) written by Peter Krückmann, who organized the exhibition, to take account of the new conclusions to be drawn from it, we are now in a better position than ever before to understand precisely what Tiepolo was aiming to represent in these greatest of all his masterpieces.
The decorations in the Kaisersaal of the Residenz—the first to be painted—present few difficulties in this respect because, even before leaving Venice, Tiepolo had been provided with a program (which still survives) instructing him on the mainly “historical” scenes that were to be depicted. However, the huge allegory on the ceiling of the staircase, which only reveals itself in stages to the visitor climbing the steps up to the landing, were not included in the original commission, and its contents must have been decided by word of mouth.
In essence they are simple enough and are indeed based on well-established traditions of palace decoration. Along each of the four sides is shown one of the Continents (easily recognizable through the use of conventional symbols, such as an unclothed Indian woman who personifies America), while floating in the center is Apollo, the Sun god, encircled by Mars, Venus, and other pagan deities.
Most visitors will be satisfied with this and be content to accept, lazily enough and without much surprise, the notion that Tiepolo has represented “the Four Continents paying homage to the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg.” They can then settle down rather uncomfortably, to crane their necks and gasp at a breathtaking composition which is sublime in its overall impression and also rich in its variety of exotic and sometimes humorous, or even macabre, episodes.
No painter can ever have been given the opportunity to convey such serene and uninhibited pleasure in the sensuous depiction of so diverse a repertory of themes and forms, some of them time-honored through their use in imagery throughout the centuries, and others quite new to high art: from the muscular male nudes of the European slaves being unloaded into Asia to the bare-breasted Nubian princess, partly draped in white, who personifies Africa; from the savages roasting a chunk of alligator meat (or is it human flesh, cut off from one of the bodies whose decapitated heads lie in a cluster nearby?) to the page in a costume of icy blue who holds the crown of Europe (and may, perhaps, be a portrait of Tiepolo’s younger son, Lorenzo); from the fiercely tusked elephant bearing Asia on its broad back to the monkey who tries to pull a feather from the tail of an ostrich and to that favorite of the artist’s birds, the red and blue macaw.
To leave matters there, however, would be to limit Tiepolo’s stature to that of the “charming painter full of verve” so admired in the nineteenth century, and would require us to ignore the conclusions of a generation or two of scholars whose work has been drawn on and brilliantly amplified by Peter Krückmann, the curator of the Würzburg exhibition. These show beyond doubt that an imaginative and subtle, but not complex or obscure, design lay beneath the apparently straightforward conception of the staircase ceiling, but that Tiepolo’s scheme was modified by the Prince-Bishop in such a way as to make a significant difference to its original meaning.
As we know from a fine oil sketch in the Metropolitan Museum (which could not be lent to the Würzburg exhibition), Tiepolo had planned to show America, Africa, and Asia paying homage to Europe as the center of world civilization, while Apollo, who prepares to mount his chariot in order to inaugurate a new dawn, carries with him a small statue of Minerva (protectress of Wisdom and the Arts) to present to that fortunate continent. A drawing (destroyed in World War II) reveals that on the wall below Europe the Prince-Bishop was to have been portrayed standing on a painted balcony, surrounded by various members of his court. Although it is likely that the outlines of this general proposal would have been discussed with the Prince-Bishop’s councilors, there is not the slightest reason to think that it would have been necessary for them to have gone into any detail about the actual planning of so straightforward a concept. It must surely have been left entirely to Tiepolo himself to devise how the inferior continents were to be represented and it must surely also have been his decision to depict them only emerging in separate installments, as it were, to visitors walking up the great double-ramped staircase. Nor—however much uproar would be aroused by the idea today—would any such visitor in the middle of the eighteenth century have been remotely surprised by the notion that America, Asia, and Africa were, in every way, inferior to Europe.
He or she might, however, have been somewhat taken aback by the changes in the composition that Tiepolo was forced to make owing to the apparent insistence of the Prince-Bishop that he should be introduced into the main fresco rather than make his appearance on the wall below. This, in itself, could be solved easily enough by inserting his portrait into a medallion that rises up into the Olympian sphere, supported by the figures of Fame and Virtue (see illustration on page 35). But to make available the space needed for this additional group the composition of the entire ceiling fresco had to be radically reorganized. The most important effect of this was that nowCarl Philipp von Greiffenclau, rather than Europe, represented the climax of civilization, to which the other continents were shown paying homage.
There is, at first sight, undeniably a sense of hyperbole, even of the ridiculous, about such a concept, but it is worth noting the ingenuity with which Tiepolo—assisted perhaps by some cultivated courtier—has been able to turn the Prince-Bishop’s vanity to advantage.
The Europe above which his medallion floats is no longer made up of generalized symbols denoting music and the arts, as had been envisaged in the original sketch, but has been transformed into a far more specific location—Würzburg itself. Allusions are made to that city’s ties with both the Papacy and the Empire, and life-size and easily recognizable portraits of leading artists and musicians are prominently featured: Balthasar Neumann, architect of the Residenz, in an elegant uniform of brown and silver, lounges nonchalantly on a ramp and stretches his legs over the barrel of a gun—an allusion to his early career as a gun founder—while Antonio Bossi, creator of the wonderful stucco decoration in the Residenz, stands enveloped in a voluminous cloak and gazes down on us, as he gestures to the musicians (whose identity is also known). Can any living craftsman ever yet have been portrayed on such a scale and with such deference shown to him? And Tiepolo himself, with his elegant son Giandomenico, is shown just outside the confines of the main scene.
To equate Europe with Würzburg may appear to be carrying flattery of the Prince-Bishop’s ambitions even further than he might have required. And yet it was not at all unreasonable to imply that between 1750 and 1753 the arts—rather than military power (only alluded to in passing) or even literature and the sciences—for which Carl Philipp von Greiffenclau’s Europe-Würzburg is being celebrated were cultivated by that prince to greater effect than anywhere else in the world. In no other city in these years—not in London or Paris (neither of which had any time for Tiepolo), not even in Rome or St. Petersburg—was so marvelous a creation reaching fulfillment as the Residenz in Würzburg. We are not well placed to deride the Prince-Bishop and Tiepolo if they chose it as the symbol of the best that Europe could achieve at that time.
Krückmann ends his book with a section devoted to “Tiepolo’s Irony: Painting at the End of an Era.” This includes a number of perceptive observations about the wit and humor (rather than irony, surely) to be found in some of his frescoes, which, as Krückmann rightly emphasizes, should not be interpreted as social criticism in view of the fact that “Tiepolo places his art at the service of the status quo.” Nor, as Krückmann unequivocally points out, can Tiepolo have anticipated that the “America” inhabited by Indians, cannibals, and exotic animals would—within a generation or so of his departure from Würzburg—become the independent “United States” presided over by George Washington, while the Europe of aristocratic leisure and the arts was to be permanently transformed by industry and “the middle-class emphasis on work and discipline.” Nonetheless, Krückmann suggests that, when looking at the frescoes in his Residenz, the Prince-Bishop and his courtiers “can hardly have failed to detect the signs that the times were changing. The grand edifice of absolutism was doomed to crumble and cracks had already appeared in the façade.” This brief but ominous phrase leaves me wholly unconvinced. I know of no serious evidence that the aristocratic society of mid-century Europe felt threatened by the likely, or even possible, disintegration of the way of life with which it was familiar, and which seemed so much more stable, as well as satisfactory, than any that had yet prevailed on the continent. It is true, however, that the
sweeping transformations…that [were to embrace] every sphere of reality—the political and social order, art and culture, philosophy, science and religion…still affect the way we act and think. Tiepolo’s Würzburg frescos were not only to be the crowning artistic achievement of their century; they also became the last great monument to the ancien régime.
We cannot eradicate our knowledge of what was to happen after Tiepolo’s death; but neither can we understand, or even fully appreciate, his art unless we make the attempt to do so. In only one respect that may perhaps have been of significance for the nature of his art could Tiepolo have been aware of an historical process which later turned out to have been irrevocable. He must surely have at least suspected that the once formidable power of Venice and its empire had vanished forever—although it cannot be emphasized strongly enough that this would not have suggested to him that it was the very independence of the city that was doomed; an English historian of my generation is well placed to disentangle the various nuances implicit in the concept of decline. Could it be that his stylistic allegiance to Veronese (with whose art the glories of the Republic were so closely associated) and his rendering of certain specific themes of Venetian life were affected by such an intuition?
Consider the extravagant, indeed preposterous, adulation of the ceiling fresco in Ca’ Rezzonico that he painted to celebrate the marriage in 1758 of the patricians Ludovico Rezzonico and Faustina Savorgnan, who are being transported through the heavens in the chariot of Apollo while the god himself follows behind them and Fame proclaims their glory. It is tempting at first sight to claim that the fresco must have been inspired by the perceived weakness of a ruling class uneasily conscious of the fact that any serious role for it in this world had virtually come to an end. But this is most unlikely. Tiepolo had already made use of the imagery of Apollo and the bridal chariot on the ceiling of the Kaisersaal in the Würzburg Residenz a few years earlier, and he often drew on his own work when devising compositions whose basic themes were broadly similar. Moreover, anyone familiar with the conventions of literary rhetoric during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will hardly be surprised to find them adapted to painting. That Venetian nobles and their families must have been gratified to see themselves so magnificently accompanied through the heavens on the occasion of their marriages need hardly be doubted, but that they looked upon such triumphal journeys as having any political significance is most unlikely.
More convincing to the rational eye as an image of nostalgia for former Venetian grandeur is one of Tiepolo’s rare portraits, painted probably at much the same time as the Rezzonico marriage allegory, with which it makes the greatest possible contrast. Standing quite motionless on a balustrade against an open arch with a column directly behind him, Daniele Dolfin is clothed entirely in resonant reds, except for the white glove which both conceals and draws attention to his mutilated left hand resting on a projecting table. Despite the coarseness of his features, his presence is one of controlled and formidable dignity (or haughtiness)—as was appropriate for one of the last in a long line of naval heroes and the victor of a series of battles with the Turks off the coast of Greece (during one of which he had lost four of the fingers of his left hand). Tiepolo’s portrait was painted for his family some thirty years after Dolfin’s death, and its exceptional power—comparable to that found in such very different images of authority as Rigaud’s Louis XIV or Reynolds’s Lord Heathfield (to neither of which it is inferior)—must surely have been intended by Tiepolo to evoke memories of an epoch which, as he well knew, had lasted for many centuries but had now finally come to an end.
Both Tiepolo’s marriage allegory and his commemorative portrait were to be seen in the second of the exhibitions organized for the tercentenary of his birth, which, as I write, is shortly to close in Venice (where it has attracted large crowds) and then to reopen, with considerable modifications, in New York.
The Venice exhibition was relatively small—some seventy-five paintings and no drawings or etchings—but (need it be said?) the catalog edited by Keith Christensen is substantial, and it contains fine illustrations as well as some excellent introductory essays and informative entries on the works exhibited.6 The location was Ca’ Rezzonico (permanent seat of the museum of eighteenth-century Venetian art), and this determined, for better and for worse, the nature of the exhibition. Pictures had to be hung where their size enabled them to be fitted so that no consistent chronological sequence was possible and the lighting was often very unsatisfactory. On the other hand, it was extremely rewarding to be able to look up at frescoes painted for the rooms in which one was standing and, above all, to be able to complement visits to the exhibition with others to the many churches, palaces, museums, and country houses containing major works by Tiepolo in and around Venice and nearby cities. Everything suggests that the version of the exhibition to be held in the Metropolitan Museum (which already owns superb, and beautifully displayed, paintings by him) will be more interesting and more thoughtfully selected and presented than the one in Venice—but the possibility to see so many works (especially frescoes) in the places for which they were painted gives Venice an overwhelming advantage.
The four large early paintings of scenes from the heroic, and in part legendary, pre-imperial age of Roman history, borrowed from St. Petersburg, made a dramatic opening to the exhibition, and the effect will be even more spectacular in New York, where to these will be added the three (out of a complete set of ten) that belong to the Metropolitan. Although Tiepolo has only sporadically tried to convey any element of antiquarian authenticity in these paintings, and although they can hardly be described as austere, the moral seriousness and feeling for dramatic tension that characterize them make these Roman heroes among the most convincing to be found in art before the Horatii of David. It is hard to believe that they were not intended to evoke a time when Venetian history had also had its moments of epic grandeur.
It is, on the other hand, to be hoped that New Yorkers will be spared the sight of two pictures, borrowed from private collections, that were hung in—and disfigured—the next room at Ca’ Rezzonico: large portraits, of the utmost crudity, said to be of doges of the Corner family. The feebler of these two depressing objects can only have been commemorative, as the doge in question lived in the fourteenth century, but it is claimed that the other could have been painted from life by the very young Tiepolo. The evidence provided (visual and documentary alike) is somewhat tenuous, and, despite the praise heaped upon them in the catalog, they hardly merited a place in an exhibition which aimed to be strictly selective. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the remaining pictures on view were of great beauty, and as such most (but not quite all) were well-known and uncontroversial.
They revealed an artist in love with light and with textures of all kinds, whose sensitivity to the most subtle harmonies of color, whose delicacy of brushstrokes, and whose mastery of drawing and composition were all made to serve a very wide range of emotions and narratives. These include an eroticism that is never slick or vulgar; a tenderness (often shown to minor characters in his scenes, such as handmaidens, pageboys, or angels) that is never mawkish; and a sense of love and yearning (notable above all in his many renderings of scenes from Tasso, especially the incomparable series at the Art Institute of Chicago) that ring absolutely true. Much more could be said about the diversity of his work, but it is the religious paintings that will come as the greatest surprise to those ready to accept the idée reçue that altarpieces of this period are invariably, as distinct from often, pompous, empty, and trivial. It cannot be denied that some of the pictures that Tiepolo painted for churches in his early maturity may repel visitors to the exhibition because of their hard and haughty coldness and their occasionally brash coloring; but as he grew older he learned how to create images of a spiritual intensity that can, at their best, stand comparison with any to be seen in Western art. Such, above all, are the sketches for altarpieces and the small devotional pictures that he painted in Madrid during the last years of his life and that brought the exhibition in Ca’ Rezzonico to an unforgettable close.
February 6, 1997
Canova’s collecting of Tiepolo was discussed by Giuseppe Pavanello at a Tiepolo conference held in Venice in November 1996, the Acts of which are due to be publishedin 1997. For the nineteenth-century comments on the artist quoted here, see Francis Haskell, “Tiepolo e gli artisti del secolo xix,” in Vittore Branca, editor, Sensibilità e Razionalità nel Sette-cento (Florence: Sansoni, 1967), pp. 481-497. ↩
Apart from his monograph on Piero della Francesca, few of Longhi’s very idiosyncratic works have been translated into English; but, thanks to the enterprise of Stanley Moss’s Sheep Meadow Press, this situation is at last being remedied, and one must welcome the appearance of Three Studies (on Masolino and Masaccio, Caravaggio and his forerunners, and Carlo Braccesco) which have been translated with an Introduction by David Tabbat. Other volumes are to follow. (The address of the Sheep Meadow Press is P.O. Box 1345; Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY 10471.) ↩
The exhibition devoted to “Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch,” held at the Kimbell Art Museum at Fort Worth in 1993, provided a good opportunity for verifying this claim; see the catalog edited by Beverly Louise Brown (Electa/Abbeville/Kimbell Art Museum, 1993). ↩
Some drawings of the Punchinello series have been on view in an admirable exhibition, “Giandomenico Tiepolo—Maestria e Gioco: Disegni dal Mondo,” whose curators are Adelheid M. Gealt and George Knox, and which was inaugurated at Udine and is shortly to be transferred to the Indiana University Art Museum at Bloomington. The catalog is published by Electa. A few of Giovanni Battista’s earlier (but far less adventurous) drawings of the same nature are included in the exhibition organized by Bernard Aikema, “Tiepolo and his Circle: Drawings in American Collections,” which is being held first at the Harvard University Art Museums and subsequently at the Pierpont Morgan Library. ↩
Peter O. Krückmann, editor, Der Himmel auf Erden—Tiepolo in Würzburg, in two volumes (Munich: Prestel, 1996). ↩
Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696-1770 (Skira, 1996). I have only seen the Italian edition. Some beautiful sketches by Tiepolo, as well as much else of interest, were to be seen in the exhibition held at Udine in 1996, “Giambattista Tiepolo, forme e colori—La Pittura del Settecento in Friuli.” The very useful catalog is edited by Giuseppe Bergamini (Milan: Electa, 1996). ↩