Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew

This picture and the article below is from the Web of Gallery Art.

TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista
(b. 1696, Venezia, d. 1770, Madrid)

Tiepolo was the most exuberant and influential, and arguably the greatest, painter in eighteenth-century Europe before the rise of Neo-Classicism. He revived the full glories of the Venetian Renaissance enriched with references to Rubens, Rembrandt, and the Roman Baroque. Tiepolo helped create the style of large-scale decorative programs embarked on by courts across the continent. His fame rests chiefly on his huge frescos but he should also be remembered as an extremely versatile painter, able to move freely from one art form to another and to adapt to the most disparate subjects. He was a pupil of Gregorio Lazzarini but soon surpassed him, being just 21 when he became a member of the Venetian Painters' Guild. In 1719 he married Cecilia Guardi, sister of the two painters Francesco and Gianantonio. He was attracted by the experimental work being done by Piazzetta and Sebastiano Ricci (working alongside them on the paintings in S. Stae in 1722).

The subject of the painting is the martyrdom of St Bartholomew, whose tormentors are on the point of flaying him alive. The awfulness of the scene is matched by the extremely powerful composition which places the writhing body of the saint along the diagonal between the two henchmen. The eerie contrast between light and shade makes the scene all the more vivid. The expressive gesture with which the despairing saint stretches his arm heavenward transforms the picture into a wonderful depiction of divine grace, the existence of which is already signaled by the bright light emanating from above.

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