Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, also known as Gianbattista or Giambattista Tiepolo (March 5, 1696 - March 27, 1770) was a Venetian painter and printmaker, considered among the last "Grand Manner" fresco painters from the Venetian republic.
Early life (1696-1726)
Giambattist Tiepolo was born in Venice, the last of six children of sea-captain, Domenico Tiepolo and his wife, Orsetta. While the Tiepolo surname belongs to a patrician family, Giambattista's father did not claim noble lineage. The future artist was baptised in his parish church (S. Pietro di Castello) as Giovanni Battista, in honour of his godfather, a Venetian nobleman called Giovanni Battista Dorià. His father Domenico died a year after his birth, leaving Orsetta in difficult financial circumstances.
Giambattista was initially a pupil of Gregorio Lazzarini, but the influences from elder contemporaries such as Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta are stronger in his work. At 19 years of age, Tiepolo completed his first major commission, the Sacrifice of Isaac (now in the Accademia). He left Lazzarini studio in 1717, and was received into the Fraglia guild of painters.
In 1719, Tiepolo married Maria Cecilia Guardi, sister of two contemporary Venetian painters Giovanni Antonio and Francesco Guardi. Together, Tiepolo and his wife had nine children. Four daughters and three sons survived childhood. Two sons, Domenico and Lorenzo, painted with him as his assistants and achieved some independent recognition. His third son became a priest.
Early mature work (1726-50)
A patrician from the Friulian town of Udine, Dionisio Delfino, commissioned from the young Tiepolo the fresco decoration of the chapel and palace (1726-1728). Tiepolo's first masterpieces in Venice were a cycle of enormous canvases painted to decorate a large reception room of Ca' Dolfin, Venice (ca. 1726–1729), depicting ancient battles and triumph.
He was soon in high demand, which he matched with an astounding prolificity. He painted canvases for churches such as that of Verolanuova (1735-40), for the Scuola dei Carmini (1740-47), and the Scalzi 1743-1744), 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 (1737-39), Palazzo Clerici, Milan (1740), decorations for Villa Cordellini at Montecchio Maggiore (1743-1744) and for the ballroom of the Palazzo Labia, now a television studio in Venice, showing the Story of Cleopatra (1745-1750).
Tiepolo frescoes the Würzburg Residenz (1750-53)
By 1750, Tiepolo's reputation was firmly established throughout Europe, and accompanied by his son Giandomenico, he traveled to Würzburg at the call of Prince Bishop Karl Philipp von Greiffenklau in 1750, where he resided for three years and executed magnificent ceiling paintings in the New Residenz palace (completed 1744). His painting for the grandiose Neumann-designed entrance staircase (Treppenhaus) is the most massive ceiling fresco in the world at 7287 square feet (677 m²), and was completed in collaboration with his sons, Giandomenico and Lorenzo. 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, notably including America. He also frescoed the Kaisersaal salon.
Return to Venice and Veneto (1753-1770)
He then returned to Venice in 1753, Tiepolo was now richly in demand locally and abroad, where he was elected President of the Academy of Padua. He now completed theatrical frescoes for churches; the Triumph of Faith for the Chiesa della Pietà; panel frescos for Ca' Rezzonico (which now also holds his ceiling fresco from the Palazzo Barbarigo); and paintings for patrician villas in the Venetian countryside, such as Villa Valmarana (Vicenza) and a large panegyric ceiling for the now nearly vacant Villa Pisani in Stra.
In celebrated frescoes at the Palazzo Labia, he depicted two frescoes on the life of Cleopatra: Meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra and Banquet of Cleopatra, as well as a central ceiling fresco depicts Triumph of Bellerophon over Time. He collaborated with an expert in perspective, Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna. Colonna who also designed sets for opera highlights the increasing tendency towards composition as a staged fiction in his frescoes. The architecture of theBanquet fresco also recalls Veronese's Wedding at Cannae
Frescoes for the Royal Palace in Madrid
In 1761, Charles III commissioned from the painter a large ceiling fresco to decorate the throne room of the royal palace of Madrid. The panegyric theme is the Apotheosis of Spain. In Spain, he incurred the jealousy and the bitter opposition of Anton Raphael Mengs.
Tiepolo died in Madrid on March 27, 1770.
After his death, the rise of stern Neoclassicism and the post-revolutionary decline of royal absolutism led to the slow decline of the Tiepolo style, but had failed to dent his impact on artistic progress. By 1772 Tiepolo was sufficiently famous to be documented as painter to Doge Giovanni Cornaro, in charge of the decoration of Palazzo Mocenigo a San Polo.
Critical assessment and legacy
In his most fluid elaborations, Tiepolo has closest affinity to Ricci, Piazzetta, and Federico Bencovich. He is a shadowless fresco artist, a sunnier rococo Pietro da Cortona. His sumptuous historical set-pieces are enveloped in a regal luminosity. He is principally known for his fresco work, particularly his panegyric ceilings. These followed the Baroque tradition begun a century before by Pietro da Cortona, converting roof to painted sky, elevating petty aristocrats to divine status, and allowing for vast compositions that merged with the delicate ornamentation of the stucco frames. Like Luca Giordano, his palette was muted, almost water-color like. Like Giordano, he was prolific. With an unrivaled Sprezzatura, he painted worlds of fresco, and some such as the walls of Villa Valmarana in Vicenza, not only peer into the mythologic scenes, but are meant to relocate viewers into their midst. The earliest example of this is perhaps his canvases in the Ca' Dolfin, which allowed Tiepolo to introduce exuberant costumes, classical sculpture, and action that appears to spill from the frames into the room. Originally set into recesses, they were surrounded with frescoed frames.
While his painting is infused with the Venetian spirit, his luminosity is not seen in the previous masters; however, Tiepolo is considered the last "Olympian" painter of the Venetian Republic. Like Titian before him, Tiepolo was an international star, treasured by royalty far afield for his ability to depict glory in fresco.
His children developed similar, but distinctive styles.