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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Ceiling decoration
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine


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


Ceiling decoration
1724-29
Fresco
Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine


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



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



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