Giambattista Tiepolo (Venice, 1696 ‒ Madrid,
1770) was an influential and charismatic personality of the grand stage of the
18th century visual arts and one of the most important painters of
Late Baroque. His oeuvre mostly encompasses wall paintings in the aristocratic
palaces and churches of Northern Italy, while his work for the courts in
Germany and Spain speak to his international fame. He influenced both his
contemporaries and future generations, since his protean activity “connected
the opulence of Baroque, the elegance of the Rococo, and the coldness of the
slowly advancing Neoclassicism”, as Luc Menaše so vividly put it.
Today, the wider public is mostly familiar with
his magnificent illusionist scenes, whose colourful tones and numerous
sumptuous figures remind us of a theatre play unwinding right in front of us.
To understand Tiepolo better, one ought also
know smaller and seemingly unimportant works besides large-scale works of art.
The apparently simple drawings hide the artist’s entire creative process and
flow of thought. The drawings take us to the backstage of the family workshop
that Tiepolo led together with his sons Giandomenico and Lorenzo. The sketches
were the templates for individual iconographic motifs and compositional
solutions of their work and remained a family secret.
Luckily, thousands of Tiepolos sheets survive,
filled with dizzying strokes and made in different drawing techniques. They are
the evidence of the original idea; Tiepolo gradually developed them with
ever-unique compositional and lightning solutions that were constantly
evaluated until the final version.
The Civico Museo Sartorio in Trieste holds one
of the most important collections of Tiepolo’s drawings; Baron Giuseppe
Sartorio (1838‒1910) left 254 jottings to the city of Trieste. The history of
the Trieste collection is also connected to Ljubljana, which hosted the
collection for a quarter of a century from 1916 onwards, when it was moved
there due to the First World War. After lengthy complications that were the
result of the new political order after the end of the Austro-Hungarian
monarchy, the drawings found their way back to Trieste in 1941.
The exhibition presents 77 drawings from the
Trieste collection that encompass the diversity of Tiepolo’s drawing oeuvre,
and showcase his boundless imagination and deft observation of everyday life.
The drawings are organized into five themes: here are the studies of figures –
flying angels, ancient soldiers, allegorical and mythological characters; faces,
masks and caricatures are studies of very specific human types and are ruthless
and sharp, yet never malevolent; landscape outtakes with felled or crossed tree
trunks that seem like jottings from a sketchbook, while also included precisely
drawn studies of dogs, elegant greyhounds, give an appearance of movement;
decorative and ornamental motifs, life ancient-looking vases, helmets,
mascarons, and weapon details that the artist used to fill in his paintings;
and then there are the mysterious phantasy motifs, whose meaning is hidden
behind a dense web of symbols and cannot be clearly interpreted.
Due to the delicacy of the media, the drawings
are rarely on view, making the exhibition at the National Gallery of Slovenia a
unique occasion to enter the world of unabashed beauty of Giambattista Tiepolo.
The exhibition was
promoted by the Italian
Embassy in Slovenia in cooperation with Polo museale del Friuli Venezia Giulia, the
Municipality of Trieste and the Italian Cultural Institute in Slovenia.
Authors of the
Luca Caburlotto, Rossella Fabiani,
Barbara Jaki, Luca Caburlotto
preparation of materials
Soprintendenza archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste
Exhibition set-up and graphic
The works of art were
Civici Musei di Storia ed Arte di
Trieste ‒ Civico Museo Sartorio
The loan was organized
Claudia Crosera, Soprintendenza
archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste
Ministero dei beni e delle
attività e del turismo – Servizio circolazione, Rome