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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Glorification of the Barbaro Family

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, Venice 1696–1770 Madrid)
ca. 1750
Oil on canvas
Irregular oval, 96 x 183 3/4 in. (243.8 x 466.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift, in memory of Oliver H. Payne, 1923
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 600
This remarkable canvas was painted to decorate the ceiling in one of the rooms of the Palazzo Barbaro, on the Grand Canal, in Venice. The Barbaro were among the most illustrious Venetian families and it is to them that the main figure of Valor accompanied by a lion alludes. Behind Valor is Fame blowing the trumpet and holding an olive branch, while behind the lion is Abundance with a cornucopia. At the lower left are Prudence, with a snake, and Nobility, holding a statuette of Minerva.
#5208. The Glorification of the Barbaro Family
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Tiepolo contributed paintings to two of the sumptuous interiors of the Palazzo Barbaro a S. Vidal in Venice. Renovations of the quattrocento palace had been undertaken by Alvise Barbaro (1636–1698), who was especially concerned with the design of the large salone or cameron overlooking the Grand Canal, for which he commissioned a famous group of pictures by Antonio Zanchi, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giambattista Piazzetta. Four oval overdoors (see Notes) by Tiepolo were in all probability installed in this room and must have been commissioned by Alvise's son, Almorò (1681–1754). This ceiling painting was also made for Almorò and hung in another salone, which faced the courtyard behind the palace.

The work was long thought to represent the glorification of an illustrious fifteenth-century member of the family, Francesco Barbaro (1398–1454). Soldier, statesman, and humanist, Francesco wrote an important treatise on marriage, the De re uxoria. Zanchi's paintings on the ceiling of the cameron represent famous women from antiquity and may allude to the treatise. Because Tiepolo's overdoors depict similar subjects and were mistakenly thought to have hung in the room with his ceiling canvas, critics concluded that Francesco was portrayed in the ceiling amid symbols of his military and literary success (Zeri and Gardner 1973).

It now appears clear that the ceiling refers not to a single Barbaro but rather to the entire family. As Garas and later Aikema have pointed out, this can be deduced first from the evidence of Giandominico's etching after the painting, which is titled Valore, fama, prudenza e nobiltà, implying that the meaning is allegorical and that the central figure is Valor (Garas 1965 and Aikema 1987). Moreover, since the ceiling canvas did not hang with the overdoors, it need not be strictly associated with the subjects of Francesco's writings. As Aikema has argued convincingly, if a specific person is celebrated in this allegory, it is the patron himself, Almorò Barbaro. The generally accepted date of the painting, 1750, coincides exactly with Almorò's elevation to the rank of procurator; the work may indeed commemorate this event, but within a broad context that lauds the virtues of generations of Barbaro.

The allegorical figures closely follow the descriptions provided by Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia. Valor dominates the picture, seated off-center, in military garb, wearing a laurel wreath and holding a scepter in one hand, while caressing a lion with the other. He is surrounded by Fame, who blows her trumpet and grasps a branch, and Virtue, also holding a laurel garland and with an image of the sun emblazoned on her chest. The two majestic female figures at the lower left are Nobility, who holds a statue of Minerva, and Prudence, seen from the rear, with two faces and a serpent wrapped around her arm. Of Tiepolo's several ceilings that treat similar themes, this canvas is among the most successful. The pompous nature of the allegory is clearly legible in the very weightiness of the composition. And there is a remarkable variety in the density of the brushwork, with details, such as the branch held by Fame, made up of separate touches that appear almost transparent against the background. That Tiepolo was fully involved in the production of this brilliantly executed commission seems evident.

Several oil sketches have been related to the Barbaro ceiling because they share certain compositional similarities with it, but these are now generally associated with a commission for the Morosini family and may represent the Apotheosis of Doge Francesco Morosini (Brown 1993). Although Valor is featured as the principal figure in these sketches, he is presented beside an allegory of Faith and above putti playing with a doge's cap, which neither appear in nor are appropriate to the Barbaro ceiling.

[2010; adapted from Bayer 1996]
Palazzo Barbaro, Venice (about 1750–at least 1860); Almorò Barbaro, Palazzo Barbaro (about 1750–d. 1754); Barbaro family, Palazzo Barbaro (from 1754); Marcantonio Barbaro, Palazzo Barbaro (until d. 1860; bequeathed to Bassi); his sister, Elisa Bassi, Palazzo Barbaro (from 1860; sold to Favenza); [Vincenzo Favenza, Venice, by 1866; sold to a private collector, France]; private collection, France (until 1874; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 9, 1874, no. 1, as "Apothéose de Francesco Barbaro, Procurateur de saint Marc," for Fr 25,000 to Camondo); comte Isaac de Camondo, Paris (1874–93; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, February 1–3, 1893, no. 25, for Fr 30,000 to Groult); Camille Groult, Paris (from 1893); Principe Manuel de Yturbe, Paris (by 1898); ?[Heilbrönner, Paris]; Stanford White, New York (installed by him in Payne's home); Colonel Oliver H. Payne, New York; private collection, New York (until 1923)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tiepolo and his Contemporaries," March 14–April 24, 1938, no. 14.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 324.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.

Venice. Ca' Rezzonico (Museo del Settecento Veneziano). "Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1996," September 6–December 8, 1996, no. 21a.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1770," January 24–April 27, 1997, no. 21a.

Henry de Chennevières. Les Tiepolo. Paris, [1898?], p. 118, as the Apotheosis of Francesco Barbaro, Procurator of Saint Mark, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; notes that it was formerly in the Camondo collection and has been bought by Manuel de Yturbe for 30,000 francs; adds that it was engraved by Tiepolo's son Domenico.

Heinrich Modern. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Vienna, 1902, p. 36, states that it went to Paris in 1873 and that Yturbe bought it at the Camondo sale in 1893; notes that Domenico's etching is called "Valor, Fama, Prudenza, e Nobiltà".

Pompeo Molmenti. G. B. Tiepolo: la sua vita e le sue opere. Milan, [1909], pp. 257–58, identifies a study in the Sartorio collection, Trieste (ill. p. 214).

Eduard Sack. Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo: Ihr Leben und Ihre Werke. Hamburg, 1910, vol. 1, p. 113, fig. 101; vol. 2, p. 150, no. 6, as in the Yturbe collection, Paris; dates it about 1753; identifies the subject as either Francesco or Marco Barbaro; states that Camondo acquired it in 1874 for 25,000 francs and that M. C. Groult bought it from Camondo in 1893 for 30,000 francs.

H. Mireur. Dictionnaire des ventes d'art. Vol. 7, Paris, 1912, pp. 181–82, gives the purchase price at the 1874 sale as 25,000 francs (erroneously listing the year as 1875), and at the 1893 Camondo sale as 30,000 francs.

Ralph Latimer. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. February 12, 1924, provides additional details concerning the provenance.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "A Masterpiece by Tiepolo." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (January 1924), pp. 14–17, ill. (overall and detail), dates it between 1754 and 1761.

Arthur McComb. The Baroque Painters of Italy: An Introductory Historical Survey. Cambridge, Mass., 1934, pp. 102, 127, fig. 108, dates it immediately after Tiepolo's return to Venice in 1753; calls the subject a glorification of either Francesco or Marco Barbaro.

Max Goering. Letter. April 1938.

Ella S. Siple. "Art in America: Three Exhibitions of Eighteenth-Century Art." Burlington Magazine 72 (May 1938), p. 238.

M[ax]. Goering in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 33, Leipzig, 1939, pp. 148, 153.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 282–83, ill.

Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941, p. 193, under no. 458, dates the Palazzo Barbaro decoration about 1755.

Giulio Lorenzetti. La pittura italiana del Settecento. Novara, 1942, p. XXVII [German ed., "Das Jahrhundert Tiepolos," Franz Deuticke, Vienna, 1942, p. XXVI], dates it about 1753.

Antonio Morassi. Tiepolo. Bergamo, 1943, p. 26, dates it to the second half of the 1740s.

Giulio Lorenzetti in Mostra del Tiepolo. Exh. cat., Palazzo d'Italia ai Giardini and Ca' Rezzonico (Museo del Settecento Veneziano). Venice, 1951, p. 85, under no. 63, dates the decoration of the Palazzo Barbaro about 1745–50.

Jean Cailleux. Tiepolo et Guardi. Exh. cat., Galerie Cailleux. Paris, 1952, p. 41, under no. 11, mentions it in connection with a sketch for the composition in a private collection, Paris, which he dates 1744–45.

Antonio Morassi. G. B. Tiepolo: His Life and Work. London, 1955, p. 22, fig. 27.

William E. Suida. Italian Paintings & Northern Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Atlanta, 1958, p. 58.

Harald Olsen. Italian Paintings and Sculpture in Denmark. Copenhagen, 1961, p. 92.

Antonio Morassi. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962, pp. 33, 42, 59, publishes a related sketch in a private collection, Paris.

Klára Garas. "Allegorie und Geschichte in der venezianischen Malerei des 18. Jahrhunderts." Acta Historiae Artium 11, nos. 3–4 (1965), pp. 294, 301 n. 24.

Anna Pallucchini in L'opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 1968, p. 114, no. 190A, ill., dates it to the years just before Tiepolo's departure for Würzburg in 1750, calling it contemporaneous with the frescoes for the Palazzo Labia, Venice (1747–50).

George Knox and Christel Thiem. Tiepolo: Zeichnungen von Giambattista, Domenico und Lorenzo Tiepolo . . . . Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 1970, p. 77, under no. 72, p. 180, under no. 205, publish a study (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; inv. no. 1460) for a ceiling painting formerly in the Palazzo Morosini depicting the Glorification of Francesco Morosini, noting a similarity to the MMA ceiling; publish a drawing (Martin von Wagner Museum, Würzburg; inv. no. 7942-7952) from the third Würzburg sketchbook after the head of the figure at lower left (Nobility), attributing the drawing to Domenico and Lorenzo Tiepolo and dating it about 1750–53.

Aldo Rizzi. Le acqueforti dei Tiepolo. Exh. cat., Loggia del Lionello, Udine. Milan, 1970, unpaginated, under no. 109, publishes the etching by Domenico after this painting.

Aldo Rizzi. Mostra del Tiepolo. Exh. cat., Villa Manin di Passariano. Vol. [1], "Dipinti."[Milan], [1971], pp. 85, 94, fig. 56, publishes a study for this painting in the collection of E. Speelman, London.

Aldo Rizzi. The Etchings of the Tiepolos. London, 1971, p. 252.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 196, 509, 606.

Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 56–57, pl. 61 (overall and detail), date it about 1745–50.

Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 3, Italian Schools: XVI–XVIII Century. London, 1973, pp. 147–48 nn. 3, 8.

Fern Rusk Shapley. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. Washington, 1979, vol. 1, pp. 443–44 nn. 2, 7.

Adriano Mariuz in L'opera completa del Piazzetta. Milan, 1982, p. 105, under no. 125.

Eric M. Zafran. European Art in the High Museum. Atlanta, 1984, p. 67.

Bernard J. K. Aikema. "Le decorazioni di Palazzo Barbaro-Curtis a Venezia fino alla metà del Settecento." Arte veneta 41 (1987), pp. 148, 150, fig. 6, rejects the identification of the subject as the Glorification of Francesco Barbaro, linking it instead to the election of Almorò Barbaro as Procurator of San Marco in 1750 and, following the description on the etching by Domenico, describes it as depicting Valor, Prudence, and Nobility, in conformity with Cesare Ripa's "Iconologia".

Daniel O. Bell. "Tiepolo's 'Betrothal': A Virtue in the History of Women." Arte veneta 41 (1987), p. 159.

Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 280, colorpl. 278.

Beverly Louise Brown. Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. Milan, 1993, pp. 242, 244–45 nn. 1–2, fig. 109, argues that studies usually associated with this picture are instead related to a project depicting the apotheosis of Francesco Morosini [see Notes].

Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 379, no. A487, ill. p. 379.

Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo: i dipinti, opera completa. Venice, 1993, pp. 136, 138, 408–9, no. 388, ill.

Rodolfo Pallucchini. La pittura nel Veneto: il Settecento. Vol. 1, Milan, 1995, p. 430.

Andrea Bayer et al. in Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1770. Ed. Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 32, 111, 157–59, 164, 166 n. 18, no. 21a, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Italian ed., "Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1996," Milan, 1996, pp. 32, 111, 157–59, 164, 166 n. 17, no. 21a, ill. (color, overall and detail)], states that this painting was installed in a different room from the one with the four overdoors [see Notes]; notes that several oil sketches formerly thought to be associated with this painting should instead be connected to a commission for the Morosini family [see Ref. Brown 1993].

Rosella Mamoli Zorzi. "Tiepolo e gli scrittori angloamericani nell'Ottocento." Giambattista Tiepolo nel terzo centenario della nascita. Ed. Lionello Puppi. Padua, 1998, vol. 1, p. 344 n. 30; vol. 2, p. 121, fig. 1, identifies a copy of this painting as the one mentioned by Henry James as "a pompous Tiepolo ceiling" in a preface to the 1908 New York edition of his work.

Rosella Mamoli Zorzi. "Tiepolo, Henry James, and Edith Wharton." Metropolitan Museum Journal 33 (1998), pp. 215–16, fig. 4.

Keith Christiansen. "The Ca' Dolfin Tiepolos." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Spring 1998), p. 17, fig. 14 (color), states that it was purchased by the architect Stanford White, who then installed it in the home of Colonel Oliver Payne.

Stéphane Loire in Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696–1770. Exh. cat., Petit Palais. Paris, 1998, pp. 58, 63 n. 64, fig. 31 (color).

Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 2002, pp. 129, 281, no. 212/1, ill. pp. 6–7, 134–35 (color, details), 281.

This painting originally decorated a ceiling in the Palazzo Barbaro, Venice. Tiepolo also painted four overdoors for this palazzo: Scene from Ancient History (National Gallery of Art, Washington; inv. no. 1939.1.365), Tarquin and Lucretia (Städtische Kunstsammlungen Augsburg; inv. no. 12582), Roman Matrons Making Offerings to Juno (High Museum of Art, Atlanta, inv. no. 32.6), and The Betrothal (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; inv. no. 4201).

The painting was etched by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and included in his "Catalogo di varie opere inventate dal celebre Gio. Batta Tiepolo . . . e incise . . . dallo stesso, e l'altre incise dalli figli Giandomenico, e Lorenzo, possedute dal medesimo Giandomenico coll'aggiunta d'altre sue opere," 1775, as no. 37, with the title "Valor, Fama, Prudenza, e Nobiltà."
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