Today we’re celebrating Giambattista Tiepolo, the most important fresco painter in Venice in the 18th century, who died on this day in 1770. His theatrical decorative style, luminous palette and mastery of complex perspective earned him many commissions from the Venetian aristocracy and the Church. Examples of Tipeolo’s work can be still found in numerous palaces, churches and scuole around the city. We’ve picked four of the top spots in Venice to admire his ravishing Rococo masterpieces:
The Discovery of the True Cross is one of the key highlights of the Accademia galleries, depicting the moment Saint Helen (the mother of Constantine the Great) discovered the True Cross on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This grandiose tondo was originally the centerpiece of the ceiling of the Capuchin church in Castello; it’s a brilliant example of Tiepolo’s remarkable handling of illusionistic perspective.
The church of Santi Apostoli contains The Last Communion of Saint Lucy – the patron saint of blindness, whose eyes were cut out before her martyrdom. In this intensely moving altarpiece, Tiepolo depicts Lucy kneeling before a priest to receive her last communion; in the foreground, a bloody knife and platter bearing a pair of gouged-out eyeballs foreshadow her impending martyrdom, while the heads of angels hover above her to announce her entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.
This monumental palace, which now houses the Museum of 18th Century Venice, boasts some of Tiepolo’s finest paintings. Highlights on the piano nobile include a splendid ceiling fresco allegorizing the marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico to Faustina Savorgnan. Upstairs on the second floor, don’t miss the series of charming frescoes painted by Tiepolo’s son Gian Domenico, which once adorned the walls of the Tiepolo family villa in Zianigo.
This beautiful scuola (confraternity) was the first to be formed by women in the 13th century, and it continued to extend hospitality to destitute travelers right through to the time of Napoleon’s occupation of Venice. Ascend the sumptuous stuccoed staircase designed by Baldassare Longhena, and you’ll find a luminous first floor salone, crowned by nine superb ceiling paintings by Tiepolo. The central work, depicting the Virgin in Glory with scenes from the legend of the English hermit Simon, is widely regarded as one of his greatest accomplishments.