This work is part of a series of the allegorical representations of the Four Continents that originally served as overdoors. Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo based his figure of America on symbols codified in Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1593): the feathered headdress and crocodile. Like representations of saints or other figures that artists aimed to identify, these attributes were important signals to historical audiences, though in the case of the Four Continents, they eventually fed into racialized stereotypes. Like the other large-scale allegorical frescoes in this gallery, this panel was probably detached around 1900 from the Palazzo Valle Marchesini Sala in Vicenza.
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Allegorical Figure Representing America—together with another three paintings representing the known continents of the world in the eighteenth century, Asia (43.85.17), Africa (43.85.18) and Europe (43.85.19)—belonged between 1914/15 and 1943 to Grace Rainey Rogers. They are detached frescoes and their shape suggests that they may have been overdoors. As Rogers also owned a series of frescoes by Tiepolo, five of which—Allegorical Figure Representing Metaphysics (43.85.13), Arithmetic (43.85.14), Geometry (43.85.15), Grammar (43.85.16), and Virtue and Abundance (43.85.12)—are known to have come from the Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala in Vicenza, and four of which—Allegorical Figure Representing Prudence (43.85.21), A Virtue, Possibly Patriotism (43.85.22), Temperance (43.85.23), and Fortitude (43.85.24)—are also said to come from the same palace, it is usually concluded that the Four Continents also came from that building. There is, however, no firm evidence for this.
The frescoes in Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala were commissioned in 1760 by Giorgio Marchesini (Chignola 2004). Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted the figures, possibly with the assistance of his son Giovanni Domenico, and of Francesco Zugno. Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna, instead, produced the trompe l’oeil architectural background. The Four Continents were painted by Giovanni Domenico and stylistically seem to date from the late 1750s or early 1760s.
The monochrome Allegorical Figure Representing America is accompanied by her standard attributes, as codified by Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1593). She wears a feathered headdress, while sitting on a crocodile and holding a palm branch.
?Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala, Vicenza (until or before 1909); [Durr Freedley, New York, about 1914/15; bought for Rogers]; Grace Rainey Rogers, New York (about 1914/15–d. 1943)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 23–April 27, 1997, no catalogue.
Enea Arnaldi. Descrizione delle architetture, pitture, e scolture di Vicenza. repr., 1982. Vicenza, 1779, part 2, p. 72, mentions four overdoors in the palazzo belonging to Giorgio Marchesini, possibly referring to 43.85.17–20.
Pompeo Molmenti. G. B. Tiepolo: la sua vita e le sue opere. Milan, , p. 95, notes that the frescoes in the palazzo Marchesini, possibly including 43.85.17–20, have been detached from the walls and sold to foreigners.
Eduard Sack. Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo: Ihr Leben und Ihre Werke. Hamburg, 1910, vol. 2, p. 181, notes that the frescoes, possibly including 43.85.17–20, mentioned by Arnaldi [see Ref. 1779] in the palazzo Marchesini have been removed and sold.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 95.
Antonio Morassi. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962, pp. 33, 65, tentatively dates the entire group of frescoes about 1750–60 and attributes all of them to Giovanni Domenico, possibly with the help of assistants for the purely decorative parts, working from designs by Giovanni Battista and under his direction; states that they are said to come from a villa on the Brenta but that there is no information on their exact provenance; includes the frescoes formerly in the palazzo Marchesini as a separate entry and states that their present whereabouts are unknown.
Anna Pallucchini inL'opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 1968, p. 136, lists the entire group under works of various attribution, noting that Morassi [see Ref. 1962] attributes only the designs to Giovanni Battista; lists the frescoes formerly in the palazzo Marchesini separately, under insufficiently documented works.
Mercedes Precerutti Garberi. Affreschi settecenteschi delle ville venete. Milan, 1968, pp. 141–42 [English ed., "Frescoes from Venetian Villas," London, 1971, pp. 127–28], discusses Tiozzo's [see Ref. 1968] suggestion that the frescoes come from the villa Valier; notes differences in handling and quality in the various frescoes, finding that 43.85.17–20 have "a coarser, more summary approach" than the others in the group; states that these four frescoes were probably made as overdoors and relates them to those in the room of Olympus at villa Valmarana; finds the style of the entire group close to Giovanni Battista's mature works of 1754–57.
Clauco Benito Tiozzo. Gli affreschi delle ville del Brenta. Padua, 1968, p. 86, suggests that the frescoes may come from the villa Valier alla Chitarra.
Adriano Mariuz. Giandomenico Tiepolo. Venice, , p. 128, pl. 137, attributes 43.85.17–20 to Giovanni Domenico and dates the entire group of frescoes about 1757–60.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 197, 492, 608, as by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
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. 63–65, pl. 75, find the style of the frescoes close to Giovanni Battista's of the 1750s, and attribute them to pupils or assistants, possibly after a design by the master; add that 43.85.17–20 are of inferior quality and are in the manner of Giovanni Domenico; note that the hammer marks covering the surface of this work "in the way customary to attach a new layer of plaster . . . may indicate that the section of the room where this fresco was placed had been altered, or that the fresco itself had been redone, with a different subject or composition".
George Knox. Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings. Oxford, 1980, vol. 1, p. 309, no. P.170, includes the series in a checklist of paintings by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.
Mauro Cova inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, pp. 22–23, 26–27, 31 nn. 1, 4, erroneously states that Arnaldi [see Ref. 1779] mentions 43.85.17–20 as four overdoors in the palazzo Marchesini depicting "le parti del mondo conosciuto," adding that no evidence remains of their original location; erroneously implies that the frescoes were removed sometime between the two world wars; dates the entire decorative cycle about 1743 and compares it with monochromes by Tiepolo in the cappella sagredo in San Francesco della Vigna, Venice.
Vittorio Sgarbi inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, pp. 7–9, dates the frescoes from the palazzo dei Conti Valle [palazzo Marchesini], possibly including 43.85.17–20, between 1747 and 1750.
Vittorio Veller inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, p. 16.
Mauro Cova. "Vicenza: Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala, scoperta e restauro di un ciclo di affreschi (G.B. Tiepolo - G. Mengozzi-Colonna)." Arte veneta 41 (1987), pp. 258–59, mistakenly states that the frescoes were detached from the walls in the 1920s.
Franco Barbieri. Vicenza, città di palazzi. Milan, 1987, pp. 115–16.
Mauro Cova inI Tiepolo e il Settecento vicentino. Exh. cat., Basilica palladiana, Vicenza. Milan, 1990, p. 37, no. 1.3.2d, attributes 43.85.17–20 to Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and calls their provenance uncertain; tentatively accepts Mariuz's [see Ref. 1971] dating of about 1757–60.
Rita Menegozzo. Nobili e Tiepolo a Vicenza. Vicenza, 1990, pp. 73, 82.
Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo: i dipinti, opera completa. Venice, 1993, p. 371, accept Mariuz's [see Ref. 1971] attribution to Giovanni Domenico and his date of 1757–60 for 43.85.17–20; agree with Cova [see Ref. 1990] that these four frescoes do not seem to be from the palazzo Marchesini.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 97, ill. p. 96.
Linda Wolk-Simon. "Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Winter 1996/97), pp. 22–23, fig. 33 (color), dates 43.85.17–20 about 1757–60 and states that they are possibly from the palazzo Marchesini; notes that the depictions of the four continents follow the descriptions given in Cesare Ripa's "Iconologia".
Ismaele Chignola. "Gli affreschi di Tiepolo a palazzo Valle Marchesini: nuovi elementi per una datazione." Arte veneta 61 (2004), pp. 233–34, 239 n. 3, dates the palazzo Marchesini frescoes to 1760.
Virginia Brilliant. Italian, Spanish, and French Paintings in the Ringling Museum of Art. New York, 2017, pp. 310–11 n. 6, under no. I.183.
The surface of this overdoor has been hammered in the way customary to attach a new layer of plaster.
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