In 1993, a leaky roof damaged the Walters Art Gallery's 9-by-16-foot early Tiepolo painting, necessitating a restoration. During the restoration process, it became clear that as much as 80 percent of the original painting had been covered by earlier "restorations." The conservators uncovered Tiepolo's original painting and revealed an early masterpiece, which was then invited to the Metropolitan's Tiepolo show.
The painting is now thought to depict "Scipio Freeing Massiva," an incident in Roman history. In his catalog entry on the work, Metropolitan curator Keith Christiansen terms the painting "badly damaged," especially by a transfer from one backing to another before it became Walters property in 1902. The transfer caused "irreversible flattening and deformation of the surface." But, he says, "It has been very well restored, and considering the damage, it looks very good."
In the catalog he writes, "Its importance for understanding the sources and development of [Tiepolo's] early career can scarcely be exaggerated."
In particular, writes Christiansen, it shows Tiepolo coming under the influence of the earlier Venetian painters Veronese and Tintoretto; his attempt to carry on and make his own the great traditions of Venetian painting as embodied in the works of those masters would become a major aspect of his work.
Of the influence of Veronese, Christiansen writes, "In the vTC Baltimore canvas, the curved architectural backdrop with the raised podium flanked by massive columns is unquestionably based on Veronese's large painting of Christ among the doctors. This is perhaps the earliest example in Tiepolo's oeuvre of the direct appropriation of a compositional invention from Veronese's work.
"To be sure, the aspect of Veronese's art that proved of most significance was not composition but color. It is the Veronesian light-suffused color that gives this composition its open-air quality and visual magnificence and marks a new chapter in Tiepolo's development."
Christiansen adds: "The other presiding influence in this canvas is that of Tintoretto. The elegantly postured boy viewed from the back at the extreme right, the commander seen in profile behind Massiva [the helmeted figure at the left of the right-hand group], and the soldier at the extreme left are shown in balletic attitudes reminiscent of figures in the work of Tintoretto, which Tiepolo studied from an early age."
Subsequently, the curator concludes, "In this picture Tiepolo declared a double debt to the drawing of Tintoretto and the color of Veronese."
Pub Date: 1/19/97