Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Born: Venice, Italy

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A highly praised painter of frescos, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo left a magnificent body work throughout Italy, Germany, Sweden, Russia and Spain. In total Tiepolo created up to 800 paintings, over 2,000 drawings, and several etchings, in addition to his numerous frescos. He is often regarded as the last of prominent Venetian painter of the grand ceiling frescos seen in the Baroque period. His works were often elaborate forms of storytelling through an entrancing painting style that was the pinnacle of Italian Rocco in the 18th century.

His earliest training came at the age of fourteen in the studio of the Venetian, Gregorio Lazzarini (1655 – 1730) and highly ambitious even in his young age, he executed his first commission at nineteen. His style of painting was formed by studying the works of other Venetians such as Sebastiano Ricci (1659 – 1734) and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682 – 1754), forming an interesting influence of grand fresco painting and the Rocco style. His first major works were in the Archbishop’s Palace at Udine and in other frescos for churches throughout Milan and Venice. Of his notable frescos in this early period is his depiction of scenes from the lives of Anthony and Cleopatra in the Palazzo Labia, a large series of 13 pieces. Part of his works’ large scope in perspective, giving his style a larger than life feel, was from his collaboration with the perspectivist painter Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna. They collaborated on several pieces throughout Tiepolo’s life.

He had already begun training his sons Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727 – 1804) and Lorenzo Baldissera Tiepolo (1736 – 1776), who accompanied him to the city of Würzburg in Germany on commission from Prince Bishop Karl Phillipp von Greiffenklau. Here, they completed one of the most decorative and acclaimed ceiling frescos of the century, additional to several highly praised works throughout the Palace of the Wurzburg Residence. The ceiling fresco above the Palace’s grand Staircase may be one of the largest frescos ever completed; both massive in technical design and in artistic skill.

Tiepolo’s style was sometimes compared to the luminary Venetian painter, Paul Veronese (1528 – 1588), but in a way that was transcendental, giving him the nickname, Veronese redivio (a new Veronese). Tiepolo’s next influential works were for the Royal Palace in Madrid, commissioned by Charles III (1716 – 1788). Here he executed another glorious ceiling fresco, titled The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy, or Apotheosis of Spain. This was begun in 1761, and it gained Tiepolo a tremendous reputation in Spain working for royalty there until his death in 1770.