Madonna and Child
48.3 cm x 40.5 cm (19 in. x 15 15/16 in.)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
(Venice, Italy, 1696 - 1770, Madrid, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Revealed by conservation treatment in 1999, this is a very fine and particularly moving work of Tiepolo’s early maturity. Its strong chiaroscuro, pronounced plasticity, palette dominated by an fiery red, as well as an earnest psychology, still echo his earliest style and the formative influence of Piazzetta (compare the picture to the right). These characteristics are, however, tempered, with the contrasts no longer stark, the plasticity no longer caricatural, the palette more balanced, and the expression transformed from the histrionic toward a lofty ethos and in this case subdued pathos. Most significantly, the density and busyness of earlier compositions has given way to simpler organization and subtler rhythms. Even on this small scale the development is evident in an interweaving of shapes and interpenetration of volumes. Especially striking and appropriately expressive is the combination of the Child rendered from low viewpoint, therefore practically convex and heroic, and the Virgin oppositely, therefore concave and sorrowful. In this tempering of Tiepolo’s first manner and growing sophistication, this picture is properly related to the grand series of canvases of Roman history for the Ca’ Dolfin in Venice (circa 1726-28).