Frescoes in the Patriarchal Palace in Udine (1726-29)
by Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO

In 1726, Tiepolo began work on the frescoes in the stairwell and in the rooms on the 'piano nobile', or first floor, of the Patriarchal Palace (now the Archiepiscopal Palace) at Udine. This important project had been commissioned by Dionisio Dolfin (1663-1734), a member of a Venetian patrician family, who had held the office of patriarch of Aquileia since 1699.

In the centre of the stairwell ceiling, Tiepolo frescoed the Fall of the Rebel Angels, which he surrounded with eight monochrome scenes from the book of Genesis. He then went on to decorate the Gallery, the so-called Sala Rossa, or Red Room, (at that time, the seat of the ecclesiastical tribunal), and the Throne Room on the piano nobile.

The Gallery features scenes from the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs, likewise inspired by the book of Genesis. The three main episodes, The Three Angels appearing to Abraham, Rachel Hiding the Idols from her Father Laban and The Angel appearing to Sarah are each surrounded by a trompe-l'oeil frame. They are hung alternately with monochrome portraits of prophetesses, which create the illusion of being statues in niches along the walls. On the ceiling, a depiction of The Sacrifice of Isaac occupies centre position, flanked by smaller oval compartments portraying Hagar in the Wilderness and Jacob's Dream. Tiepolo was aided in the realization of this famous ensemble by the quadratura specialist from Ferrara, Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna (1688-1766), with whom he continued to work closely during the years that followed.

On the ceiling of the Sala Rossa, Tiepolo painted The Judgement of Solomon, surrounded by portraits of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel - a theme appropriate to a room used both as a civil and ecclesiastical tribunal. Finally, there are portraits of Old Testament patriarchs in the Throne Room, but these have deteriorated badly, and not all are by Tiepolo himself.

The ambitious pictorial program of the overall decoration was probably conceived by Dionisio Dolfin himself, with the help of his theological advisers, including Francesco Florio, his vicar-general. The subjects chosen for the pictures were intended to reinforce the legitimacy of the ruling patriarchy, which at that time found itself at the centre of a fierce politico-ecclesiastical struggle between Venice and Vienna. The decoration of the Patriarchal Palace in Udine unquestionably represents the high point in Tiepolo's early career. By portraying figures in 16th century dress, and placing them in landscapes bathed in sun and light, he recalls the magnificently staged scenes of Veronese. The decisive element in this project must be his sense of the theatrical, where the respective subject matter of the picture is presented in a dramatically staged scene. Each figure is assigned a primary or secondary role and the relationships between the protagonists are elucidated by means of a masterly handling of colour. Tiepolo thus transformed the revival of Veronese's art, also favoured by his contemporaries, from a mere stylistic fashion into a pictorial language that was to confirm his own reputation as a representative of the Venetian tradition.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 19 minutes):
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
View of the Gallery
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1147*1400
True Color
236 Kb



Sarah and the Angel
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1111*1400
True Color
240 Kb



Sarah and the Angel
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

900*1411
True Color
187 Kb



Rachel Hiding the Idols from Her Father Laban
1724-29
Fresco, 4000 x 5000 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1500*905
True Color
217 Kb



Rachel Hiding the Idols from Her Father Laban (detail)
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1059*1300
True Color
223 Kb



The Three Angels Appearing to Abraham
1724-29
Fresco, 4000 x 2000 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1110*1400
True Color
242 Kb



The Three Angels Appearing to Abraham (detail)
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1085*1400
True Color
246 Kb



Jacob's Reconciliation with Esau
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

596*1500
True Color
170 Kb



Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

599*1500
True Color
173 Kb



The Sacrifice of Isaac
1724-29
Fresco, 4000 x 5000 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1500*889
True Color
177 Kb



The Sacrifice of Isaac
1724-29
Fresco, 4000 x 5000 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1101*808
True Color
158 Kb



The Sacrifice of Isaac (detail)
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1100*1343
True Color
199 Kb



Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1500*929
True Color
211 Kb



Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1200*829
True Color
171 Kb



The Judgment of Solomon
1724-29
Fresco, 360 x 655 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1200*868
True Color
174 Kb



Jacob's Dream
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1500*947
True Color
199 Kb



Jacob's Dream
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1144*787
True Color
169 Kb



Ceiling decoration
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1200*1156
True Color
210 Kb



The Prophet Isaiah
1724-29
Fresco, 200 x 250 cm
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1111*780
True Color
184 Kb



Ceiling decoration
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine

1030*1400
True Color
260 Kb



Melchizedek and Abraham Meeting at the Altar
c. 1720
Crayon and pen and wash, 370 x 510 mm
Art Institute, Chicago

1270*900
True Color
193 Kb




Summary of works by Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO
Great fresco decorations
Patriarchal Palace, Udine (1726)
Villa Loschi, Biron di Monteviale (1734) | Palazzo Labia, Venice (1746-47)
Residenz, Würzburg (1751-53) | Villa Valmarana, Vicenza (1757)
Royal Palace, Madrid (1762-66)
Various paintings and decorations
up to 1740 | 1740s | 1751-70