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The Chariot of Aurora

Artist:
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, Venice 1696–1770 Madrid)
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
35 1/2 x 28 5/8 in. (90.2 x 72.7 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lore Heinemann, in memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann, 1996
Accession Number:
1997.117.7
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 622
Aurora is shown in her chariot, accompanied by the Hours and heralded by Apollo; Time is on the right. Also recognizable are Ceres, with a sheaf of wheat, and Bacchus, wearing a crown of vine leaves. This oil sketch was possibly a proposal by Tiepolo for the decoration of a ceiling in the Palacio Real in Madrid. Tiepolo was summoned to Spain in 1762 to decorate the throne room, and also made proposals for the decoration of other rooms; a ceiling of this theme was painted in the queen's bedroom in 1763 by Tiepolo's rival, Anton Raphael Mengs.
Forthcoming
Baron Ferdinand von Stumm-Holzhausen, Madrid [where he served as German Ambassador, 1887–92], Florence, and Schloß Holzhausen, Hessen, Germany (?by 1892–d.1925); [Van Diemen, Berlin]; Jakob Goldschmidt, Berlin and Bern (until 1937; one of three works sold with 1980.363 for a total of £8,000 to Internationale Antiquiteitenhandel, Amsterdam); [Internationale Antiquiteitenhandel, Amsterdam, 1937; one of three works sold with 1980.363 for a total of £12,000 to Becker]; Baroness Renée de Becker, Brussels and New York (1937–after 1955; sold to Rosenberg & Stiebel); [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, after 1955, possibly with Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York]; [Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York, until d. 1975]; Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York (1975–d. 1996)
Antonio Morassi. Tiepolo. Bergamo, 1943, p. 38, fig. 124, attributes it to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and calls it Allegory with Venus and Apollo; dates it about 1662–70; states that it was formerly in the Van Dieman Gallery, Berlin; mentions it among works he calls "ideas" for ceiling decorations.

Antonio Morassi. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962, p. 35, fig. 253, calls it a modello for a ceiling possibly never carried out.

Anna Pallucchini in L'opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 1968, pp. 132–33, no. 282, ill., calls it Venus and Apollo; dates it about 1762–66 and notes that Bacchus and the swans are new details in the artist's repertoire.

Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo: i dipinti, opera completa. Venice, 1993, pp. 458–59, no. 469, ill., call it Venus and Apollo; find it similar to the study of 1758 (MMA 37.165.2) for the Saint Thecla altarpiece, and believe that Tiepolo probably painted it in Venice and then brought it to Madrid.

Catherine Whistler. "Review of Gemin and Pedrocco 1993." Burlington Magazine 137 (September 1995), p. 626, identifies the subject as the Chariot of Aurora; states that it must have been painted soon after Tiepolo's arrival in Madrid as a sketch for a ceiling in the royal palace, adding that Mengs painted a Chariot of Aurora for the queen's bedroom in 1763.

Keith Christiansen et al. in Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1770. Ed. Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 329, 333 n. [2], fig. 119 [Italian ed., "Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1996," Milan, 1996, pp. 329, 333 n. 2, fig. 119], as "The Chariot of Aurora"; calls it a sketch for the ceiling of the queen's bedroom in the royal palace in Madrid, which was ultimately painted by Mengs.

Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996–1997." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Fall 1997), pp. 40–41, ill. (color), discusses the iconography.

Andrea Kirsh and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. New Haven, 2000, p. 272 n. 6.

Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 2002, p. 307, no. 278, ill., erroneously as still in a private collection, New York.



This work was painted during Tiepolo's sojourn in Madrid, probably as a sketch for the ceiling of the queen's bedroom in the royal palace, a commission which ultimately went to the German Neoclassical painter Anton Raphael Mengs.

At the top of the composition Apollo emerges from his temple at the start of a new day, while beneath him at center the chariot of Aurora begins its path across the heavens, guided by the Hours. Below are figures representing three of the seasons: Bacchus holding a cup of wine (fall), Ceres with a sheaf of wheat (summer), and an old man (winter). The sleeping figures and bats along the right edge symbolize the passing night, and above them is Time with his scythe.
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