TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista
(b. 1696, Venezia, d. 1770, Madrid)

Family of Darius before Alexander

Villa Cordellina, Montecchio Maggiore

In the 1740s, Tiepolo began a series of more than half a dozen decorative cycles in urban palaces and country villas. In 1743 he frescoed the two-storied salone in the centre of Carlo Cordellina's villa outside Vicenza. Cordellina, a lawyer, specialist in international jurisprudence, opted for two narratives of heads of state offering clemency to foreign prisoners, the Generosity of Scipio and the Family of Darius before Alexander. As in the past, Tiepolo turned to Veronese for ideas, choosing as a model for the Family of Darius the earlier master's famous depiction of the same subject. Tiepolo followed his predecessor in several ways, but since the Cordellina fresco is almost square in format rather than rectangular like Veronese's canvas, Tiepolo was compelled to rethink the subject's earlier artistic tradition.

The Family of Darius, along with the equally successful Generosity of Scipio facing it, is one of Tiepolo's mature masterpieces. With their simple gestures, monumental spaciousness, and exquisite harmonies of colour, the pair of paintings convincingly portray deeply felt emotions that shine forth into the Cordellina salone, giving voice to the uniquely human virtue of magnanimity.

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