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Giambattista Tiepolo
Biography



In 1696 Giambattista Tiepolo was born in Venice to the captain of a merchant ship. While still a boy he entered the studio of Gregorio Lazzarini. On 21 November, 1719, he married Cecilia Guardi, sister of the landscape painter Francesco Guardi, who bore him nine children. Two of them, Giandomenico and Lorenzo, became pupils of their father and assisted him in his decorations. His career went smoothly from the start and he was commissioned to do many pictures for churches and Palazzi in Venice.

His first important decorative work was at the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario, for the Order of the Jesuits, in 1737. Three years later he painted the ceiling of the Church of the Scalzi. As early as 1726, his reputation as a decorator had spread throughout northern Italy, and he travelled the area painting from 1731 through 1761. Tiepolo spent his career covering vast expanses of palace walls and ceilings with the allegories and histories so beloved by the aristocracy. He suspended mythical and allegorical figures in an airy empyrean, bathed in light and gorgeous colours. His works were requested from Udine to Milan, Vicenza to Verona.

Tiepolo's two most important decorative works, however, he did abroad. In 1750 the prince-bishop Karl Philip von Greiffenklau commissioned him to paint the grand hall of his palace at Würzburg, and on its completion the prince-bishop was so pleased with Tiepolo's work that he had him paint the dome of the Grand Staircase as well.

In the paintings of Tiepolo, myth, legend, and history coalesce with humour, fantasy, and sensuality. Sexuality is overt yet innocent, the characters sincere yet gay, the mood both light and serious. The sweep, energy, and sense of movement of his scenes perfectly complement the curling, ebullient forms of rococo decor. Tiepolo was unmatched in making his fanciful concoctions seem real and uncontrived. In contrast to Boucher and Fragonard, Tiepolo's art was less overtly erotic and covered a broader range of emotions, ideas, and subjects.

In March 1762, at the bidding of Charles III, King of Spain, Tiepolo went to Madrid with his two sons and painted the ceiling of the Throne Room in the Royal Palace. The King asked the artist to do seven pictures for the Church of San Pasquale at Aranjuez, and proposed to have him decorate the dome of the new chapel in the Palace of Aranjuez.

Like Fragonard, Tiepolo lived to see his style of painting grow outmoded. The years spent working in Madrid for the Spanish king were his last. The grand-scale decorations Tiepolo had perfected were becoming old-fashioned. In their place, the art of antiquity was being championed once more. Giambattista Tiepolo died in Madrid in 1770.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

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