Artibus et Historiae no. 40 (XX)

1999, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANDREA GOTTDANG - Deceived Expectations. Wit and Irony in the Work of Giambattista Tiepolo

Art historians always have looked with amusement at witty details in the paintings of Giambatista Tiepolo. They mainly served as proof of the purely decorative or even superficial character of the master's work. Regarded in terms of baroque rhetorical irony, his work takes a different meaning. Apelles Painting Campaspe is an ironical comment on the situation of a court painter, while The Rape of Europa paraphrases Ricci's Europa and exposes the superficiality of Ricci's emulation of Paolo Veronese's masterpiece. From 1740 onward Tiepolo also inserts witty motives in ceiling frescoes. They subversively counteract the original meaning of the program and indicate that Tiepolo reflected on art and its social conditions more profoundly than one would expect, admiring his stupendous 'decorations'.

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