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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
(1696-1770)

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Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Tiepolo was an Italian painter, the last great master of the Venetian school, and the preeminent muralist in the rococo style. He was born in Venice as the son of a merchant, and studied with various Venetian painters but was most influenced by the 16th-century Venetian master Paolo Veronese.  Some art historians consider Tiepolo a painter of both the Baroque and the Rococo styles. It is true that he was apprenticed in the Venetian School during the Baroque Era that ended around 1730, but he was also greatly inspired by the Rococo and the much brighter colours that were one of the characteristics of Rococo. 

The Würzburg Frescoes, that are the main subject of this page, were painted 1750-1753 when the Rococo was at its peak, so on this page I have dealt with him as a Rococo painter.  

Italy 1973. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Self-Portrait.

In 1719 he married Cecilia, the sister of Francesco Guardi (a Venetian Rococo painter) who gave birth to his nine children; two of them, Giovanni Domenico and Lorenzo,  became painters and their father's chief assistants. Only Giovanni Domenico achieved international fame like his father, and numerous stamps have been issued world wide honouring both of them.  

Tiepolo was first listed with the painters' guild of Venice in 1717. His patrons in northern Italy included the Venetian doge and several noble families of the region. 

  • Italy 1973. From the series "Famous People". Self-Portrait. Compare this stamp with the self-portrait on a Würzburg frescoe below on this page. 

Tiepolo's mastery of composition, perspective, color, and light enabled him to take full decorative advantage of architectural spaces. His vast frescoes ignore the boundaries of walls and ceilings, creating convincing illusions of new expanses where biblical, mythological, and historical visions unfold in fluent, elegant lines.

Among Tiepolo's early frescoes are Angels Bearing the Casa Santa from Nazareth to Loreto (1743-1744) and other subjects for the Church of the Scalzi in Venice (destroyed in World War I, 1914-1918), as well as the scenes from the lives of Mark Antony and Cleopatra decorating the grand hall of the Palazzo Labia in Venice (before 1750). 

Croatia 1994. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. 700th anniversary of Virgin Mary's Sanctuary at Loreto. Italy 1996. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Sarah and the Angel. Italy 1975. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The Angel Appearing before Hagar and Ismael. San Marino 1990. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The Suffrings of Santa Agatha.

From 1750 to 1753 Tiepolo worked in Würzburg, Germany, under the patronage of its prince-bishop, for whose palace he painted themes from German history and from classical mythology.  The Würzburg Palace, in Baroque style, with its Tiepolo-frescoes in Baroque content, but brighter Rococo colouring, was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1981.  

Germany Rococo Art. Photograph of the Princely Palace in Würzburg. Germany 1998. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The Würzburg Residence.
Germany 1996. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Ceiling Frescoe over the staircase at the Würzburg  Residence.
  • German Federal Republic 1996. Ceiling Frescoe over the staircase at the Würzburg Residence.  

  • Detail of the original frescoe at the Würzburg Residence. Scan by courtesy of Peter Werther (Germany).  

Germany Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Detail of the original frescoe at the Würzburg Residence.

Germany 1987. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The staircase in the Würzburg Residence.

The German architect Johann Balthasar Neumann designed the Residence for the prince bishops of Würzburg. 

Completed in 1746, the palace features a large staircase hall that dominates its center, in which many of Tiepolo's frescoes are located. Although the stamp is in black/white, it still gives a good impression of the enormous staircase and its outstanding art works. 

The Residence is open to tourists, and its south wing houses the Martin von Wagner Museum.  

  • Germany 1987.  The huge staircase dominating the center of the Palace. 

In its large definitive series of Important Germans (1961), The German Federal Republic and West Berlin issued the below stamp, honouring Neumann.  A frescoe of Neuman is also found in the "Europa"-part of the stairwell.  

Germany Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Self-portrait from the frescoes in the Würzburg Residence.
  • Self-Portrait from the frescoes at the Würzburg Palace (please read more below).  The portrait is found in the "Europa"-part of the stairwell frescoes.  Scan by courtesy of Peter Werther (Germany).  

Germany Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Ceiling frescoe by Tiepolo of Johann Balthazar Neumann. German Federal Republic 1961 (and West Berlin 1961. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Baumeister Neumann.  

The German stamp is undoubtedly produced after the frescoe to the left of Neumann. 

 

A German collector friend, Gerhard Batz, has informed me that besides the Würzburg residence, his most famous building in Franconia is the pilgrimage church "Vierzehnheiligen" (Church of the so-called "14 Nothelfer", saints for all problems of the life) which is located on a hill over the Main river in the vicinity of Nuremberg.  

No stamps have been issued depicting this church, so Gerhard has sent me a nice photograph, that gives a good impression of the huge church.  

Germany Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Photograph of the Pilgrimage Church "Vierzehnheiligen".

Further, Neumann has been honoured on a German 50-Mark banknote (issued 1993).

German Federal Republic 1993. 50 Mark Bank Note, depicting Johann Balthasar Neumann.

In 1754 Tiepolo returned to Venice, where he became director of the Venetian Academy. Frescoes of this period include The Triumph of Faith (1754-1755) in the Church of the Pietà in Venice, scenes for the Villa Valmarana in Vicenza (1757), and decorations for the Palazzo Rezzonico in Venice (1758), as well as the below three paintings, issued San Marino in a se-tenant set as shown. 

San Marino 1970. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Se-tenant set of three Tiepolo-paintings: 1) Girl with Mandolin,  2) Rinaldo and Armida,  3) Girl with Parrot.

Tiepolo also produced a large number of oil sketches, finished drawings, and imaginative etchings, as well as several altarpieces for Venetian churches. His oil paintings include the Crucifixion (1755-1760, The Saint Louis Art Museum) and Holy Family with Saint Gaetano (Accademia, Venice).

Italian Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Ecce Homo. Pen-and-wash drawing.

In 1762, by invitation of Charles III, Tiepolo and his sons Giovanni Domenico and Lorenzo, traveled to Spain to execute a commission for the throne room of the royal palace in Madrid. They painted The Smithy of Vulcan in the guardroom, Apotheosis of Spain in the antechamber, and, on the ceiling of the throne room itself, the magnificent Spain and Her Provinces (1762-1767). 

Sources and links:

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