St Leo in Glory (sketch for the ceiling of the church of San Lio, Venice)
- Place of origin:
Venice, Italy (painted)
Tiepolo, Domenico, born 1727 - died 1804 (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
oil on canvas
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Paintings, room 81, case WEST WALL
Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) was the son of Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), one of the most renowned painter of 18th-century Venice. He trained and worked along with his younger brother Lorenzo (1736-1776) in his father's studio from the 1740s until Giambattista's death in 1770, pursuing then an independent career. While working with his father he also produced independent works such as the 14 canvas of the Via cruces in San Polo, Venice. From 1780 to 1783, he was president of the Venetian Academy. At the end of his life he was best known for his drawing of Venetian contemporary life and the Punchinello's series.
This painting is an oil sketch for a ceiling St Leo in Glory , S. Lio, Venice, still in situ, executed in 1783-84. The composition is divided into two parts: the upper part shows the apotheosis of the Cross with God the Father, Christ at the bottom of his Cross and the Holy Spirit above, in a halo of light, whereas the lower part presents the elevation of the white dressed pope Leo IX (1002-1054) with his arms wide open, carried upwards through clouds by a crowd of putti, cherubs and angels. This is a late work in Domenico's career, which appears as one of the latest monumental Venetian baroque paintings before a shift in the taste of the following century.
In a circular format, in the upper part: God the Father holding a sceptre in his right hand and Christ at the bottom of his Cross are supported by angels among clouds while immediately above is the Holy Spirit in a halo of light; in the lower part: the white dressed pope is carried upwards through the clouds by a crowd of angels, cherubs and putti, on the right an angel is carrying his papal cross; on each side are angels and cherubs.
Place of Origin
Venice, Italy (painted)
Tiepolo, Domenico, born 1727 - died 1804 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Diameter: 71.1 cm estimate
Object history note
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900. Ionides acquired the work from Colnaghi, on 20 January 1883, for £35; the same day he also purchased CAI. 96 from the dealer (his inventory, private collection).
Ref: Basil S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection.Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London : Printed under the authority of the Board of Education, 1925.
C. Monkhouse, ‘The Constantine Ionides Collection’ in Magazine of Art, vii, 1884, pp. 36-44, 208-214.
The collection formed by Constantine Ionides includes works of a wide variety of schools, periods and artists. His collection includes Old Masters, 17th century works, contemporary British works and French 19th century works. Constantine formed friendships with artists of the day, especially Legros, who, having spent 17 years in Britain, became a naturalise British citizen. Constantine proved a stable and generous buyer of Legros work, while Legros, in turn, became an advisor in the matters of art to the attentive Constantine. Under the influence of Legros Constantine developed a keen interest in French 19th century paintings purchasing works by Delacroix, Degas, Millet and Rousseau.
Constantine’s plans concerning his collection conformed to a more ‘public-welfare’ vein of thought than his father or brother. He decided to donate his collection to the Victoria & Albert Museum, instead of privately distributing it or disposing of it in a Sales room.
His will states:
'All my pictures both in oil and water colors and crayon or colored chalks (but subject as to my family portraits to the interest herein before given to my said Wife) and all my etchings drawings and engravings to the South Kensington Museum for the benefit of the nation to be kept there as one separate collection to be called "The Constantine Alexander Ionides Collection" and not distributed over the Museum or lent for exhibition. And I desire that the said Etchings Drawings and Engravings shall be framed and glazed by and at the expense of the authorities of the Museum so that Students there can easily see them.'
The collection bequeathed to the museum in 1901 comprises 1138 pictures, drawing and prints, to which a further 20 items were added on the death of his widow in 1920. The works are listed in the V&A catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection.
Historical significance: Originally attributed to Giambattista Tiepolo and successively to his school, J. Byam Shaw in 1959 identified the subject matter as a sketch, bozzetto, for the ceiling of the church St Lio in Venice, renowned work of Domenico Tiepolo, executed in 1783-84 and still in situ. Zanetti so describes it, for example, in the second edition of Della pittura veneziana, ii, 1792, p. 614 and Moschini in his Guida per la Città di Venezia, i, pt I, 1815, p. 214.
The present painting is a circular oil sketch showing in the upper part the apotheosis of the Cross and the Trinity with the foreshortened figure of God the Father holding a sceptre, the Christ at the bottom of his Cross and above, in a halo of light, the Holy Spirit. In the lower part, is depicted the elevation of Pope Leo IX (1002-1054) carried upwards through clouds and surrounded by a crowd of putti, cherubs and angels.
The Trinity appears to be a recurrent motif in Domenico's oeuvre and similar compositional ideas can be found in drawings in the Courtauld Institute, London and in the Janos Scholz collection, New York (a compositional study for the ceiling of the Prebistery of the church of Casale sul Sile, Treviso) while a very similar drawing in the Albertina, Vienna (24075) called the Apotheosis of the Cross, was probably done in direct connection with the fresco in St Lio.
The motif in the lower part presenting the elevation of a white dressed pope with his arms wide open reappears in several compositions such as The Apotheosis of a Pope and a Martyrin the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia (178.1995) executed in the same years around 1780-85, in a few drawings (see for instance The National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1943.3.8110, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 37.165.65) as well as in the painting The Assumption, Musée Ingres, Montauban, that could ultimately derive from Giambattista Tiepolo's Assumption painted in the Oratorio della Purità, Udine, in 1759.
Compositional studies by Domenico are of the greatest rarity and, as such, the V&A painting appears as a precious document for Domenico's artistic development after his father's death in 1770. His ceiling compositions are relatively simplified with a fewer figures distributed among the clouds while the taste for monumental Venetian baroque paintings lessened in favour of the new classicism of the following century.
Historical context note
An oil sketch is a type of painted work of small dimensions that first appeared in the 16th century. It derives from the Renaissance practice of preparatory drawings in pen and ink and is generally executed as a preparatory study in mixed oil and tempera for a finished larger work as an alternative to drawings. The finish of these studies, often called modello, can be more or less refined. The earliest known oil sketches are by Polidoro da Caravaggio (ca. 1497-ca. 1543) but the technique spread quickly among the artists including Federico Barocci (1528-1612), Cristofano Allori (1577-1621), Tintoretto (1519-1594 ) and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664 ) and became an important feature of the Baroque art. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) for example is one of the greatest examples of Baroque artists' use of the oil sketch and contributed to introduce its practice in Flanders. This method benefits to both artists and patrons as not only the artists were able to present and promote their work through these support but the patrons could also request an oil sketch to evaluate a project at an early stage. Sometimes considered as a works of art in se, oil sketches were also offered by the artists to connoisseurs. Oil sketches were still favoured during the Rococo and the Romantic period but at the end of the 19th century, the artists tent to paint more and more directly on the support, abandoning thus gradually the oil sketch in its function as a preparatory study.
Oil painting, 'Sketch for the Ceiling at S. Lio, Venice', Domenico Tiepolo, 1783-1784
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 270-271, cat. no. 338.
The following is the full text of the entry:
Domenico TIEPOLO (1727-1804)
Son of Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), he was mainly known as a collaborator with his father, his only known teacher. He accompanied him to Würzburg, 1750-53, and again to Madrid, 1762, returning to Venice (unlike his younger brother Lorenzo) on his father's death. His most characteristic work lies in his frescoes for the Valmarana villa, c. 1757, and his own villa at Zianigo, with its punchinello scenes, 1793.
SKETCH FOR THE CEILING AT S. Lio, VENICE
Canvas, circular Diameter 28 (71.1)
At the time when it was acquired in 1900, this sketch, known as Apotheosis of a Pope (Leo the Great) , was attributed to Giambattista Tiepolo. It was so catalogued by Sack (1910), although in 1904 the Museum had described it as A Martyr with a Cross surrounded by Angels being received by the Holy Father, an account followed by Long (1925), who then described it as school of Tiepolo. In 1959 Byam Shaw pointed out that the sketch corresponded in all important respects with the ceiling of S. Lio in Venice, which survives, though in very poor condition, and which has always been known as the work of Domenico. Zanetti so describes it, for example, in the second edition of Della pittura veneziana, ii, 1792, p. 614 and Moschini in his Guida per la Citta di Venezia, i, pt I, 1815, p. 214. Byam Shaw also cited several sketches by Domenico of the Trinity (figs. 45, 46) which may be related to the Museum's modello, though no drawing has been found which corresponds to the whole sketch or ceiling. The Museum's sketch was probably one of several made for the project; for example, a sketch (recorded by Sack, 1910, no. 119, as Domenico's work), A Pope in Glory, was lot 84 of the Sellar sale, Paris, 6 June 1889, but was apparently rectangular (80 x 60 cm.). Most of the differences between the circular sketch and the ceiling result from the demands made by the cartouche shape of the latter.
Though Domenico is best known at this period, 1783/84, for his genre and pulchinello scenes, for such a commission as the S. Lio ceiling he presumably reverted to the style and type of composition of his father. The group of God the Father in the clouds harks back to the upper part of Giambattista's altar-piece at Este, of 1759, St Thecla delivering the city from the plague (Morassi, Tiepolo, 1955, pl. 75, and a sketch in the Metropolitan Museum, no. 92 in Mostra del Tiepolo, Venice 1951, catalogue, p. 120). The composition of the lower part is similar, though reversed, to that of St Dominic in Glory (Venice, Accademia; Morassi, 1962, fig. 114) of c. 1720. A closer model was probably Giambattista's The Assumption of the Virgin (Venice, Church of the Pietà, and study in the Rosebery collection, London; Morassi, 1962, p. 20 and fig. 226).
Prov. Constantine Alexander Ionides; bequeathed to the Museum in 1900.
Exh. Venetian art, New Gallery, 1894-95, no. 171, as Apotheosis of a Pope (Leo the Great) , by Giambattista Tiepolo.
Lit. Anon., 'The New Gallery Exhibition of Venetian Art' in Athenaeum, 30 March 1895, p. 414; Cat. Ionides Coll., 1904, p. 2; E. Sack, Tiepolo, 1910, p. 225; Long, Cat. Ionides Coll. , 1925, p. 60; J. Byam Shaw, 'A sketch for a ceiling by Domenico Tiepolo' in Burl. Mag., ci, 1959, pp. 447-51; A. Morassi, A complete catalogue of the paintings of G. B. Tiepolo including pictures by his pupils and followers wrongly attributed to him, 1962, p. 17.
Anon., 'The New Gallery Exhibition of Venetian Art' in Athenaeum, 30 March 1895, p. 414.
Catalogue of the Ionides Collection, 1904, p. 2.
E. Sack, Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo : ihr leben und ihre werke. Ein beitrag zur kunstgeschichte de achtzehnten jahrhunderts, Hamburg, 1910, p. 225.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p.60.
J. Byam Shaw, 'A sketch for a ceiling by Domenico Tiepolo' in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 101, no. 681 (Dec. 1959), pp. 447-51.
A. Morassi, A complete catalogue of the paintings of G. B. Tiepolo including pictures by his pupils and followers wrongly attributed to him, London, 1962, p. 17.
Oil paint; Canvas
Angels; Cross; Clouds; Cherubs; Apotheosis; Pope Leo, the Great