Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, Venetian, 1696–1770)
Oil on canvas
73 x 54 7/8 in. (185.4 x 139.4 cm)
Inscribed (sides): EVROPA / AFRICÆ / AMERICA / ASIA
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1977 (1977.1.3)
This picture, Tiepolo's largest and most dazzling oil sketch, shows Apollo about to embark on his daily course across the sky. Deities around the sun god symbolize the planets, and allegorical figures on the cornice represent the four continents.
Tiepolo presented this preliminary sketch to Carl Philipp von Greiffenklau, the prince-bishop of Würzburg, on April 20, 1752, as his proposal for the decoration of the vast staircase ceiling of the Residenz, often considered the artist's greatest achievement. The figures in grisaille at the corners were executed on the ceiling in stucco by the decorator-sculptor Antonio Bossi.