Giambattista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Property from a European Private Collection
Giambattista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, in a feigned oval

Giambattista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, in a feigned oval
oil on canvas
23 ¼ x 16 ¾ in. (58.9 x 42.5 cm.)
Mancinelli-Scotti collection, Milan; Scopinich Gallery, Milan, 29 May 1929, lot 31, where acquired by the following,
Rasini collection, Milan.
R. Pallucchini, ‘Di una pittrice veneziana del settecento: Giulia Lama’, Rivista d’Arte, XV, 1933, as ‘Giulia Lama’.
A. Morassi, ‘The Young Tiepolo’, The Burlington Magazine, LXIV, 371, February 1934, p. 91, pl. II.
A. Porcella, ‘Il Tiepolo e i Tiepoleschi’, L’Arte, XLIV, December 1941, as ‘Piazzetta’.
A. Morassi, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G.B. Tiepolo, London, 1962, p. 28.
A. Mariuz, L’opera completa del Piazzetta, Milan, 1982, p. 82, no. 28a.
M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo, Venice, 1993, p. 229, no. 34.
S.M. Pilo, La Giovinezza di Giovan Battista Tiepolo, Venice, 1997, pp. 77 and 79, fig. 65.

Lot Essay

This picture was first recognised by Adolfo Venturi and Roberto Longhi as a youthful work by Tiepolo when it was sold at auction in Milan in 1929. Shortly thereafter Antonio Morassi published it in The Burlington Magazine in an article that examined a handful of Tiepolo’s early works, in an attempt to direct attention to a less-commonly studied aspect of his oeuvre (op. cit.).

The picture relates to a composition by Giambattista Piazzetta in the National Gallery in Prague (fig. 1), which is oval in format and of slightly larger dimensions. A similar arrangement of figures, with the Child placed on the shoulder and turned to the viewer, is also used in Piazzetta’s Saint Christopher Carrying the Infant Christ in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The positioning of the head of Saint Joseph may derive from the Saint Jerome by Johann Liss made for the church of San Nicolò dei Tolentini, Venice, in 1627. As Morassi noted, the picture provides a key link between Piazzetta and the young Tiepolo, two of the most prominent artists in 18th-century Venice. While the composition is the same, the impact of the two pictures is markedly different: where Piazzetta’s touch is delicate and feathery, Tiepolo paints in rich impasto and strong modelling. He creates an intensity and immediacy that characterise and distinguish his work. Indeed, Morassi noted that in this picture one can see Tiepolo displaying that spark of virtuosity that would set him on the path to greatness: ‘the colour scheme is truly exquisite, for the flesh tones alternate with bluish, pearly reflexions [sic.] – giving an indication of what was to come’ (ibid.).

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