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

St James the Greater Conquering the Moors

Oil on canvas, 317 x 163 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Signed on the sword at the bottom: G. TIEPOLO F.

Legend has it that the Apostle St James the Greater appeared to the Spaniards as they fought the Moors at the battle of Clavijo and that, with the help of this heavenly apparition, they achieved victory. Ever since that time the Apostle has been venerated by the Spanish people as their patron saint and his memory honoured in numerous works of art.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, perhaps the most significant of eighteenth-century painters, worked in Spain during the last years of his life, and it had been assumed that during those years he painted this picture - no doubt for an altarpiece. According to the latest research, however, the painting was commissioned by the Spanish Ambassador to London and executed in Venice in 1749-50; it is true that the Venetian chronicler mentions a picture of St George on horseback, but it is not unlikely that an Italian, unfamiliar with Spanish legend, may have misidentified the subject. Because of the monumental simplicity of its composition and its brilliant colour harmony, this work must rank high in the annals of eighteenth-century painting.

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