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Exhibitions and Projects
1 June – 3 September 2017

Giambattista Tiepolo

Drawings. From the Collections of the Civici Musei of Trieste

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 exhibition
Luca Caburlotto, Rossella Fabiani, Giorgio Marini, Lorenza Resciniti

Project leaders

Barbara Jaki, Luca Caburlotto

Alenka Simončič

Conservation-restoration preparation of materials
Nicoletta Buttazzoni, Soprintendenza archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste

Exhibition set-up and graphic design
Ranko Novak

The works of art were loaned by
Civici Musei di Storia ed Arte di Trieste ‒ Civico Museo Sartorio

The loan was organized by
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

General sponsor
Sponsors and supporters

With a ticket to the National Gallery of Slovenia you can claim a 50% concession for a ticket to the exhibition Splendor of Venetian Baroque. Tiepolo and His Contemporaries that is on view at the Arts and Crafts Museum in Zagreb from 3 June to 1 October 2017. 

  • Exhibition announcement (video)
  • Information leaflets for visitors (PDF)
1 June – 3 September 2017
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana