Some thoughts on Giandomenica Tiepolo (1727-1804)

I have recently been reading The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance by Bernhard Berenson published in 1894 and I thought I would share his thoughts on Tiepolo with a comparison to Longhi, Canale, Guardi and Veronese. I hope you find these words interesting and that they encourage you to revisit the works of these wonderful artists.


But as delightful as Longhi, Canale, and Guardi are, and imbued as they are with the spirit of their own century, they lack the quality of force, without which there can be no really impressive style. This quality their contemporary Tiepolo possessed to the utmost. His energy, his feeling for splendour, his mastery over this craft, place him almost on a level with the great Venetians of the sixteenth century, although he never allows one to forget what he owes to them, particularly to Veronese. The grand scenes he paints differ from those of his predecessor not so much in mere inferiority of workmanship, as in a lack of that simplicity and candour which never failed Paolo, no matter how proud the event he might be portraying.

Tiepolo’s people are haughty, as if they felt that to keep a firm hold on their dignity they could not for a moment relax their faces and figures from a monumental look and bearing. They evidently feel themselves so superior that they are not pleasant to live with, although they carry themselves so well, and are dressed with such splendour, that once in a while it is a great pleasure to look at them.

It was Tiepolo’s vision of the world that was at fault, and his vision of the world was at fault only because the world itself was at fault. Paolo saw a world touched only by the fashions of the Spanish Court, while Tiepolo lived among people whose very hearts had been vitiated by its measureless haughtiness.

But Tiepolo’s feeling for strength, for movement and colour was great enough to give a new impulse to art. The works he left in Spain do more than a little to explain the revival of painting in that country under Goya: and Goya, in his turn, had a great influence upon the best French artists of our own times.”


(The image is Tiepolo’s Carneval Minuet (1745-55)(Musée du Louvre, Paris)

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