Tiepolo in the saleta and another one



at the Royal Palace in Madrid


famed as a decorator, was in 1762 commissioned by Charles III to paint frescos
for the Royal Palace of Madrid. Preceding Tiepolo’s arrival the Neapolitan
artist Corrado Giaquinto had departed the palace and
Raphael Mengs had been commissioned a year earlier.1

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first instance Tiepolo had planned to return back to Venice after he had
completed The Wealth and Benefits of the Spain ceiling fresco in the throne
room but eventually Tiepolo painted two additional frescos ceilings in the
Royal Palace. One on the Apotheosis of the Spanish monarchy in the saleta and
another one on the Apotheosis of Aeneas in the guardroom. In
total he painted six oil sketches fort his project. For the ceiling fresco in
the saleta Tiepolo painted two modelli (image 1, image 2). Literature
marks this project as a climax of his illustrious career but also describes his life there as a real
Victorian melodrama. They especially speculate on the supposed jealousy of the
other court artist, Raphael Mengs.2
However these allegations are irrefutable.We can only speculate
on the reasons behind Tiepolo’s decision to remain in Spain. Nevertheless, it
still interesting to analyse Tiepolo’s art during this period. Tiepolo was at a
high age when he undertook the heavy travel to Spain and the art that he made
there was at the end of his career. Therefore one would expect that it affected
his style and art.


created the modello for the ceiling fresco of the Wealth and Benefits of Spain
before he left Venice. He did just the same with his preparations for his
Wurzburg commission. Tiepolo clearly wanted to impress with these offers since
the modello for the staircase ceiling in Wurzburg and this one are much larger
and elaborate than his other modelli.  Another
reason for the size of the modello was that a big variety of iconographic
elements had to be included. As Francisco Jose Fabre described these had to
represent the majesty of the Spainish Monarchy, exalted by poetic beings,
attended by virtues, and surrounded by 
its diverse states.”3


The composition
concentrates in the lower half of the painting around the personification of
the Spanish Monarchy. The Monarchy is seated on the globe which symbolizes the dominating
power of the crown. The figures evolve around the throne.



literature claim that he painted the modello on image 1 first and the modello
on image 2 later,4
however some state that he painted the two at the same time.5 In the center of the lower
half of each modello a female figure of the Spanish crown and her lion is
displayed. She is crowned by a flying mercury, the traditional protector of
Spain and surrounded by the heavens. In the heavens a trumpeting figure of fame
and representations of the wealthy provinces of Spain and the continents of the
world are presented.  Also both modello
show representations of the Gods. We can see Mars and Venus in the bottom part
of each modello and Minerva and Jupiter benath the canopy.


the two modello are highly similar the composition and the prominent role of
the figures differ quite a bit. To begin the symbolisation of Europe, the
female figure accompanied by a temple, is clearly shown in the modello of image
1 on the left side, while she nearly plays a part in the modello of image 2. The
modello also differ in the colours that are painted surrounding Jupiter. In the
second modello he has been surrounded by a golden glow and in the first
painting he is displayed against the white clouds and blue air. However the
most striking difference is the figure of Apollo. In the second sketch the
figure of Appollo is the most prominent figure in the whole sketch and he
totally overshadows Neptune. In the first sketch Apollo is not even shown which
gives Neptune a more prominent role. In the eventual fresco ceiling Apollo has
also been given a prominent part. That is way most critics argue that image 2
must be the later modello. As one sketch misses Apollo completely they could
not have been painted at the same time.6


the final ceiling fresco Tiepolo has not only combined elements from the
modelli, he has also painted new components. For example the poses of fame,
mercury and some other figures are reversed or new in comparison to the
modello. Also the colours of the final fresco are much brighter and more flying
figures are spread more over the painting. This gives the fresco an overall
design and the feel that the fresco seems to open immediately to the heavens.
In the end, this illustrates how the Modello really served as creative
processes and not as fixed forms for the final works.




































Series on the Life of
the Virgin Mary



This depiction of the Annunciation
(No. is one of the small works that Tiepolo painted on the life of the Virgin
Mary during his last years in Madrid. Almost nothing is known about the
intention behind these paintings. The provenance of almost all these works is
unknown. This is why it is often supposed that Tiepolo created them for
personal use. Their relation is however apparent. They are contemporary
painted, similar in size, depict the Virgin Mary and they are all meditative in
tone and radiate a mood of secrecy. Unquestionably they were independent works rather
than modelli for large projects since there are signs of any direct parallels. The
Annunciation was supposedly created independently from the other four. It does
however serve as a narrative introduction.7


sources particularly discuss the iconographical meaning of these paintings.

Christiansen argues that:

“this freedom of invention (that was
present in Tiepolo’s modelli), combined with an inexpressibly effortless
handling of the brush reached a climax in the marvellous series on the theme of
the life of the Virgin.(…) they give us privileged access to the inner workings
of Tiepolo’s imagination; and it is typical of him to that their utterly
conventional subjects – as old as Venetia art itself – should have provided the
material for deeply personal ruminations.”


Christiansen eventually concludes
that it is irrelevant to distinguish the motivation behind these works, but he does
suggest that there were personal ruminations which Tiepolo wished to express
through his art.

Other literary sources elaborated on
this suggestion. They claim that Tiepolo indeed created these works by means of
expressing his personal feelings. Subsequently, they try to characterize the
supposed personal feelings in his the works of the life of the Virgin.8


In any case Tiepolo has managed with
his depiction of the Annunciation to give an original twist to a conventional
theme in Christian art.

This is partially reached by the
paradoxes in the painting. The virgin is positioned in a spacious but sober
room. She is surrounded by multiple domestics elements such as the basket with
her knitted work on the floor, the reading cabin she is standing next to and
the dish in the opening behind the curtain. In contrast to these domestic
elements the Virgin adapts a pose that radiates dignity. The golden clouds
entering the room and surrounding the virgin give a holy feel to the
composition. This is enlarged by both the three angels and the dove flying
above the Virgin and beaming golden rays on her. Moreover the passionate bow of
the archangel Gabriel illustrates such an attitude of submissiveness that
elevates the setting even more. With this significant attention for the traits
and posture of the figures combined the vivid details, Tiepolo accomplished to
depict the Annunciation in a unique manner that is homely and sublime at the
same time. These thoughtfully painted details make the painting effective in a
didactical and allegorical way. Moreover it also creates a poetic mood that is
different from his former more dramatic works.



The four
capricci on the flight into Egypt are part of the series on the life of the
Virgin Mary. Although they are even more intricately related, there is still no
actual proof that these works were commissioned as a series. They might have
been commissioned separately for private users or Tiepolo might have made them
for personal reasons. Only some information on the provenance of the painting
in Lisbon and the painting in Stuttgart is present. Those two belonged to the
Pinto Basto family. However,  it is not
sure if they actually were the commissioners.9


Two of the four paintings (No. 57 and no.
57) display the holy family resting on their flight into Egypt.

The Virgin takes on a parallel pose in these two
paintings. Furthermore, Tiepolo has given special attention to the environment
surrounding the holy family in these two. Especially the image no. 57 is
outstanding in this context. The viewers’ attention is completely drawn to the
extending harsh mountain terrain. The holy family is miniscule and positioned
in the lower right corner. This causes the effect that the holy family seem to
be overwhelmed by the landscape. Literary sources that try to characterize
Tiepolo’s inner state of mind often discuss this painting because of this. On
the one hand they interpret it as symbolic for Tiepolo’s unhappiness in Spain
and his wish to return to Venice.10 On the other hand they
claim that de picture shows that Tiepolo saw Spain as his last resting place
and how he desired to remain there.


In the other two of the four paintings the
emphasise lays more on the intervening angels. They display an angel positioned
in a bow towards the holy family on the shore and angels helping the family
cross the river. Both of these also present a rocky mountains surrounding the

Although it is often suggest that these
paintings are an expression of Tiepolo’s inner feeling and it is hard not see
some kind of hidden message in these paintings, the suggestion is probably as
Christiansen stated: “an unnecessary romanticization”.11


To begin the flight into Egypt was not an
unconventional theme for Tiepolo. His earliest drawings of the theme date around
1730. It is more likely that Tiepolo used this theme for multiple canvasses
just to practice his ability to paint a theme in various ways and give
different interpretations to the subject. In fact Tiepolo had produced homogeneous
themed albums before. One of these albums contained about six drawings of theme
the rest on the flight into Egypt. Furthermore, Christiansen describes that the
choice for this specific theme does not display any didactic intent and that
Tiepolo just played on a rich pictorial tradition.12 This claim is supported
by the fact that the Rest into the Flight into Egypt already was a truly
conventional theme in Venetian art.

Many artists, of which is know that they
have inspired Tiepolo, have applied the theme to their work. An example is the
from Veronese.13

It was even common that the holy family
only played a minor part in the composition of the painting. The attention
rather went to the landscape, which is also especially the case in the image

It is not a sight into Tiepolo’s inner
state of mind that makes these works special. It is the tone and the mood
together with the depiction of the landscapes and the attention for the posture
of the figures. These elements clearly have differ from  his former narratives. His previously painted
landscapes did not did serve a purpose other than just a background to the
figures. The landscapes in these works painted in Spain are fantastical and an
integral part of the whole image rather than just an iconographical element.
Algarotti expressed this as the: “basso continuo to the figurative canto”.14 Moreover the tone and
mood of his earlier narratives were more dramatic.


This is a development that supposedly is
significant for his art at the end of his career in Spain. Especially since
these developments are also apparent in the 
modelli that Tiepolo made for the S. Pascual church in Aranjuez during
the same time. The following will discuss these works extensively.








After the project in the Royal Palace
Tiepolo was commissioned by Charles III in 1767 to paint seven altarpieces for
the Franciscan church of S. Pascual Baylon at Aranjuez. The images he painted
between 1767 and 1796 display the same developments that are apparent in the
series on the life of the Virgin.15
According to Sedyl the project was unlike anything the artist had taken on and
marked Tiepolo’s turn to public and ecclesiastical painting in Spain. He states that the works are
masterpieces of this artist’s late style. 16 Whistler also describes the works as: the finest example
of Tiepolo’s strength and sophistication as a religious artist.17
The project was special for multiple reasons. Firstly because Tiepolo had never
before been commissioned with the decoration of a whole church. Especially not
in seven paintings, as he was more used to fresco commissions. Secondy the
project was special because Charles III had highly personal interest in this
project since it was the first big religious building for the king.18 Finally
because the paintings were eventually replaced by the works of Anton Raphael Mengs.
It is most assumable that official circled preferred the Bolognese classicism
of Mengs with fixed forms and finish, over the emotive and romantic style
Tiepolo applied. This however illustrates how Tiepolo remained true to his own
creativity and style.


The modello for the Immaculate is
one of the five modelli for the project that survived. According to Whistler
this modello and the final canvas mark the climax of Tiepolo’s long career as a
religious painter. 19
It is assumable that Tiepolo was commissioned to paint this subject since the
belief in the immaculate conception was a long standing tradition in the
Franciscan order. Nevertheless, Tiepolo did give his own interpretation to the
theme and used his own style.

The altarpiece was designed for the
transept alter on the left of the high altar that had to present the Vision of
Saint Paschal Baylon.20


The modelli and the related final
canvasses present numerous differences. Besides the possible alterations by
Charles III confessor Joaquin de ELeta, Tiepolo must have so many alterations
to the final compositions because he was not as used to the Franciscan style he
had to paint. This style focus more on abstinent male figures and did not allow
Tiepolo to exploit his usual range of feelings and characters in the painting.
The alterations illustrate his contemplation on the subject and his learning
progress. Another plausible explanation for the differences between the modelli
and the final altarpieces is the fact that the church was not yet finished when
the modelli already were. Tiepolo’s works are known to interact with the
architectural elements such as the lighting and ornament. That fact that was
not yet aware of these elements must have evidently caused him to make
alterations to the final canvasses.

On the one hand this illustrate his
capacity as a monumental painter. On hand it testifies for the fact that Tiepolo
the modelli were the only instrument for his personal reflections.


According to Christiansen the altarpieces
except from the Immaculate Conception gained nothing and lost a lot with the

One difference between the modello
for the Immaculate conception and the altarpieces is striking. The modello
depicts the Virgin supported by angels on both sides. The angel on her right
that is supporting her from behind has strong muscles and is large in size
compared to the other angels. In the ultimate canvas this angel is completely
removed. As a result of this the character of the Virgin changes.  In the modello the Virgin looks more like an
icon like figure because of the numbers of angels around her. In the final
canvas she has a more confident and powerful attitude.


Besides some other small changes the
symbols and the iconography in the modello remained the same.


The Virgin is positioned on top of
the globe. With her right foot she stand on the serpent that holds an apple in
his mouth and slithers over the globe. It is symbolic for the Virgin who
defeats the original sin of Eve that is spread around the globe by the
malicious serpent. Her victory and elevation is symbolized by fallen palmtree
in the lower part of the painting. The mirror represents  that she is released from all sins and hereby
is the mirror to all virtues. The dove above and the twelve stars around her
head are standard iconographical elements that refer to the Apocalyptic woman
of all Revelations. The contours of an obelisk on the left of the Virgin is
also a common symbol used in reference to the Immaculate conception. The
obelisk is linked to the tower of Ivory or David and represents the virginity
of the Virgin.22



Tiepolo’s depiction of the Immaculate
conception is remindful of his painting of the Annunciation. The pose of the
two Virgin is similar and she is enveloped by the same golden clouds. That Tiepolo
repeatedly employed a similar posture for the virgin that represents
powerfulness and dignity for the Virgin underlines his elevated interpretation
of the Virgin.  


Tiepolo painted Saint Francis
receiving the stigmata for the transept altar on the right of the high altar.  It was placed on the opposite transept of the
Immaculate conception. This altarpiece depicts a muscular angel that is similar
to the angel that is depicted in the modello but was removed in the ultimate
canvas of the Immaculate conception. This might be an indication that Tiepolo
attuned these paintings to each other because of their opposite positions.


Just as the Immaculate conception,
modello for the Saint Francis’s stigmatization altarpiece shows Tiepolo’s
development in style during his career in Spain.



To begin Tiepolo’s new manner in
painting landscapes, as discussed above, is especially apparent in this modello.
The modello shows a fantastical fluidly painted setting that interacts with the
mystical scene. This landscape together with the postures and expression create
a poetic and meditative mode. This landscape and mood is remiscent of the
paintings on the life of the Virgin he made during his career in Spain but is unlike
his previous paintings. An example is the drawing that Tiepolo made on the same
subject but years earlier around 1720. This depiction of the Stigmatization is
way more dramatic that the one in the modello for the St Pascual Church. In the
drawing the shocked Saint Francis is directly penetrated by a beam of light
from heaven. In contrast, Tiepolo painted Saint Francis receiving the
Stigmatization very sensitively in the modello for the St. Pascual Baylon. The
pain is only shown in the posture of the Saint and his touching eyes. The angel
is calmly soothing him and there is no sign or beam of light from above.  He had almost made an earlier painting on
this subject but unfortunately it got lost.23
The poetic tone in the modello is enhanced by the carefully chosen colours.
Just as in the series on the life of the Virgin, Tiepolo only used warn
luminous colours. Especially the angel stands out in this context. The luminous
golden tone of the angel’s drapery and skin radiat onto Saint Francis. The
surrounding land and trees have the same warm tone and  in this way interact with the figures and
enhances the radiant glow of the angel.



1 Whistler 1986 p. 200

2 Whistler 1986 p. 198-203, Knox
1980, p. 180

3 3. Fabre 1829, p. 107.

4 Christiansen 1996, p. 286; Úbeda
2014, p.38

5 Brown 1993, p. 310, 312

6 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437792 (Entered 12 december 2017)

7 Christiansen p. 336-343

8 Thiem 194, p. 315, Turner 1996,

9 Fiocco 1940 p.12

10 Thiem 194, p. 315




14 Algarotti

15 According to his own testimony
Tiepolo completed the altarpieces in 1796. See Whistler Apollo.1



18 Whistler 326 Apollo

19 Whistler p. 242

20 P. 242, The Vision of Saint Paschal Baylon is in
fragmentated condition at the Museo del Prado, Madrid

21 343

22 247