GIOVANNI BATTISTA TIEPOLO
Venice 1696 - 1770 Madrid
MADONNA OF THE ROSARY WITH ANGELS
signed and dated on the pedestal: JOA. BATTA: TIEPOLVZ.F. / ...1735
oil on canvas
96¾ by 61½ in.; 246 by 156 cm.
Possibly sold, London, George Stanley, 31 March 1824, lot 6;
John Webb, Esq., London;
By whom sold, London, Harry Phillips, 11 June 1829, lot 201, for £43.10 to Peacock;
Michael Peacock, London;
By whom sold, London, Foster’s, 28 February 1844, lot 29, for £37 to Lake;
Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro (1797 - 1864), called Munro of Novar, London;
His Estate sale, London, Christie's, 1 June 1878, lot 116 (dated incorrectly to 1734) for £99.15 to Sedelmeyer;
With Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, 1878 - 1898;
Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson, 1st Bart. (1840-1929), Dudley House, London;
His sale, London, Christie's, 6 July 1923, lot 45;
Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson, 1st Bart. (bought back);
Thence by inheritance to his daughter, Princess Natale Labia (née Ida Louise Robinson), London;
Thence by inheritance to her two sons, Prince Giuseppe B.R. Labia and Count Natale Antonio Labia;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby’s, 5 July 1989, lot 73;
There acquired by the present collector.
W. Frost, and H. Reeve, eds., A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Water-colour Drawings, and Prints, in the Collection of the Late Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro, Esq., of Navar, at the Time of His Death Deposited in His House, No. 6 Hamilton Place, London, With Some Additional Paintings at Navar, London 1865, no. 234, p. 140;
The London Times, 10 June 1878;
Illustrated Catalogue of 300 Paintings by Old Masters...of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris 1898, no. 259, p. 284, reproduced p. 285;
G. Redford, Art Sales: A History of Sales of Pictures and Other Works of Art..., vol. I, London 1898, p. 276; vol. II, p. 254;
P. Molmenti, G.B. Tiepolo, la sua vitae le sue opere, Milan 1909, p. 260;
E. Sack, Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo, ihr Leben und ihre Werke, Hamburg 1910, no. 497, p. 219, reproduced fig. 212a;
P. Molmenti, Tiepolo, la vie et l'oeuvre du peintre, Paris 1911, p. 198 (date incorrectly given as 1753);
E.K. Waterhouse, The Robinson Collection, exhibition caalogue, London 1958, cat. no. 35, reproduced no. 10;
L. Frolich-Bume, "Sammlung Sir Joseph Robinson," in Weltkunst, vol. 28, August 1958, pp. 4-5, reproduced p. 5;
H. Shipp, "Treasures of the Robinson Collection: Some Problems of Attribution," in Apollo, vol. LXVIII, no. 402, August 1958, p. 41, reproduced;
A. Scharf, "The Robinson Collection," in The Burlington Magazine, vol. C, no. 666, September 1958, pp. 300 and 303, reproduced p. 298, fig. 1;
G. Reitlinger, The Economics of Taste: The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices, 1760-1960, London 1961, p. 461;
A. Morassi, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G.B. Tiepolo, London 1962, pp. 19 and 43, reproduced fig. 81;
G. Piovene and A. Palluchini, L'Opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo, Milan 1968, no. 106, pp. 83, 90, 101, reproduced p. 101;
A. Seilern, Italian Paintings and Drawings at 56 Princes Gate... vol. V, London 1969, under no. 341;
J. Hayes, "Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson," in Petit Larousse de la peinture, vol. II, Paris 1979, p. 1579;
H. Braham, The Princes Gate Collection, exhibition catalogue, London 1981, no. 107, p. 73;
M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo: I dipinti (opera completa), Venice 1993, pp. 86, 249 under no. 73, 312 no. 207 and 313 under no. 208, reproduced p. 312;
K. Christiansen, ed., Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696- 1996, exhibition catalogue, New York 1996, pp. 30, 205-08, cat. no. 30a, reproduced in color p. 206;
S. Loire, "Rezensionen:... Massimo Gemin, Filippo Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo. I dipinti..." in Kunstchronik, vol. L, January 1997, p. 30;
G. Pavanello, "Tiepolo e la scultura: dalla copia all'inve nzione," in Giambattista Tiepolo nel terzo centenario de/la nascita, Padua 1998, vol. I, pp. 167 and 169, reproduced vol. II, p. 67, fig. 14;
F. Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo, Milan 2002, pp. 235-6, no. 116, reproduced p. 236;
M. Stevenson, Art & Aspirations: The Randlords of South Africa and Their Collections, Vlaeberg 2002, pp. 44-48, reproduced in color p. 47, fig. 11;
J.L. Seydl, Giambattista Tiepolo: Fifteen Oil Sketches, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles 2005, under no. 2, pp. 27 and 29, reproduced in color p. 29, fig. 2.1.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, The Robinson Collection, 2 July - 14 September 1958, no. 35, reproduced no. 10;
Cape Town, National Gallery of South Africa, The Joseph Robinson Collection, 1959, no. 10;
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Sammlung Sir Joseph Robinson, 1840-1929: Werke europaischer Malerei vom 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert, 17 August - 16 September 1962, no. 10, reproduced fig. 5;
Venice, Museo del Settecento Veneziano Ca' Rezzonico; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696- 1996, 6 September - 15 December 1996; 24 January - 27 April 1997, no. 30.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the greatest painter of the Venetian Rococo, painted this signed and dated Madonna of the Rosary in 1735, during his early mature period. The dramatic composition, grand scale, and bold coloring of this painting draw on the rich history of Italian Renaissance religious art. At the same time, the Madonna’s monumental stature and elegant pose against the imagined backdrop point toward the fantastical, theatrical elements of the Grand Manner for which Tiepolo was celebrated. Most works of this caliber by Tiepolo remain in situ or in major museums. In fact this seems to be the only large-scale altarpiece still in private hands. The legendary provenance of this painting includes influential collector Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar and South African diamond magnate Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson and his daughter, Princess Ida Louise Labia.
Despite the prominent signature and date and large size of this canvas, its original commission has yet to be determined. It was almost certainly painted for a Dominican church or oratory, as it was this order that promoted the cult of the Rosary throughout Europe. The popular devotional practice of praying the rosary enjoyed renewed emphasis during the papacy of the Dominican Pope Benedict XIII (1724 – 30). Here the Virgin holds a rosary in her outstretched left hand (detail, fig. 1), as if offering the beads to a devotee, and she wears the less typical red cloak that associated her with royalty as well as with the roses symbolically associated with the rosary prayers.
By 1735, the demand for large altarpieces in Venetian churches had diminished, and Tiepolo had not yet received a major religious commission there. In the same year, he was employed in Udine, however, and this altarpiece may have been intended for a church in that provincial city. Catherine Whistler has also suggested this painting could have been made for a church in Vicenza, where Tiepolo is recorded in 1734, decorating the Villa Loschi (Zileri dal Verme).1 Around this time Tiepolo was asked to decorate the Royal Palace in Stockholm—an assignment he was able to turn down due to the demand for his works in Italy.
Art historians have recognized the importance of this painting for over a century. Antonio Morassi first suggested that a bozzetto from the Count Seilern bequest to the Courtauld Institute (fig. 2) was a study for the present altarpiece, though Anna Pallucchini and Helen Braham dated the sketch a decade earlier than our painting, and Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco in 1993 rejected any relationship between the two works.2 However it seems likely that Tiepolo began the oil sketch for another commission and it remained in his studio, where it inspired the 1735 painting. Notable iconographic similarities exist between the two pictures: the Madonna, raised on a pedestal and surrounded by angels, wears red rather than conventional blue, an angel draws back her veil, and she holds a rosary in her left hand and her Son in her right. In our picture, Tiepolo idealized the Virgin’s features and exaggerated her contrapposto pose as well as placed her rosary centrally to communicate the purpose of the altarpiece.
In addition to his own oil sketch, Tiepolo ingeniously synthesized multiple sources of stylistic inspiration to produce this innovative altarpiece. Giuseppe Pavanello connected the Madonna’s memorable pose with Antonio Corradini’s sculpture of a similar Madonna of the Rosary in the Chiesa delle Eremite, Venice, created in the early 1720s (fig. 3).3 Indeed, the present Madonna’s placement on a stone pedestal before a column and curtain and her elongated stature suggest conventions of sculpture, and both Tiepolo’s and Corradini’s subjects stretch their hand out with a mannered arrangement of fingers to offer the rosary to a supplicant.
In his Villa Loschi frescoes in Vicenza, Tiepolo had introduced statuesque female allegorical figures that likely inspired his treatment of the Virgin here.4 An Immaculate Conception still in situ in Vicenza and dated 1733-34 features the same facial type for the Madonna. The latter painting in its original altar faced an altar that had been decorated earlier by Giambattista Piazzetta (1682 – 1754). Tiepolo certainly knew Piazzetta’s works, in particular the 1725 Vision of St. Philip Neri for Santa Maria della Fava in Venice (fig. 4), where Tiepolo had also painted The Education of the Virgin, dateable to circa 1732.5 Piazzetta’s Madonna looks down from above with a commanding presence as she holds the Christ Child on her right hip, and two angels lift her veil; Tiepolo was clearly looking at his older contemporary’s works when creating the present altarpiece.
Whistler has pointed out even older sources for certian motifs in the Madonna of the Rosary: the gold brocade hanging behind the Madonna recalls early Venetian masters like Giovanni Bellini, and the attendant angel kneeling in the left foreground echoes the placement of similar figures in the works of Mannerist painters Correggio and Parmigianino. The overall emotion and grandiosity of the Venetian masters Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese is evident in Tiepolo's works from the 1730s, and paying homage to these artists was likely encouraged by his patrons.6 From the same stylistic period in Tiepolo's oeuvre is the Adoration of the Christ Child in St. Mark’s, Venice (fig. 5), which shares with the present picture and with the 16th-century Venetian painters the bold primary colors and chiaroscuro, strong diagonal composition, and inclusion of attendant angel as well as a putto floating in on a cloud that adds grace to the scene.
Though the early provenance of the altarpiece is unknown, its ownership history is well documented from the 1820s. The first confirmed owner of the painting was John Webb, Esq., who amassed an impressive collection of Old Masters. It was previously believed that Webb sold this Tiepolo in 1824 with George Stanley, as he had sold about thirty paintings with Stanley in 1823 and a "Tiepolo: Madonna" appears in an 1824 catalogue.7 In fact, we have confirmed that it was instead sold with Webb's entire remaining collection on 11 June 1829 with Harry Phillips (see Provenance). Along with the Tiepolo, Webb had owned altarpieces from Italian churches and works by Raphael, Giulio Romano, Caravaggio, David, Greuze, Rembrandt, and Velazquez. This painting is described in the sale catalogue as “a grand altar piece of the largest dimensions, representing the Virgin and Child, with attendant Figures, Angels, &c. This work is the undoubted chef-d’oeuvre of the master, and displays, in an eminent degree, all the excellencies of the Venetian school—splendid and harmonious colouring in union with the most correct and classical drawing. Nothing can exceed the grace and dignity of the whole composition. The form and attitude of the Virgin, the graceful contour, and rich glowing tints of the head, the management of the drapery, &c. give an air of majestic and divine sweetness to this figure, which can scarcely be surpassed by any production of its class. The accessories are all of the most appropriate description; and for breadth and boldness of colour, with the most perfect harmony, this picture may be justly pronounced equal to any of the best performances of the Italian masters.”
The next illustrious owner of the altarpiece was Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro, called Munro of Novar, a close friend and patron of J.M.W. Turner who also owned Tiepolo's Martyrdom of St. Agatha (circa 1755), now in Berlin's Gemäldegalerie.8 Both Tiepolos were sold by Munro's heirs in 1878 and purchased by Galerie Sedelmeyer, and both later entered the collection of Sir Joseph Robinson, South African gold and diamond magnate and politician.
Robinson purchased Dudley House in London in 1894 and began collecting to fill his 80-foot picture gallery. The present lot was one of his earliest acquisitions. He remained in England during the Boer War (1899 - 1902) after his negotiations with his friend Paul Kruger, president of the Boer Republic, failed to prevent conflict. In 1908, Edward VII made Robinson a baronet in honor of his support of the cause of South African self-government. In 1910, he returned to his home country for good, and in London in 1923 he would place at auction 116 paintings. However, as Ellis Waterhouse recounted9, when Robinson saw his paintings hung for the sale, he fell back in love with his own collection and deeply regretted his decision, so much so that he set prohibitive reserves on this and many of his paintings in order to buy them back. The Tiepolo and much of the collection passed to Robinson's daughter, Ida Louise, who married Conte Natale Labia, Italian Minister Plenipotentiary to the Union of South Africa (d. 1936), and remained in the family until their two sons sold some of the paintings, including this one, in 1989.
1. C. Whistler in K. Christiansen, ed., New York 1996, p. 208.
2. See A. Morassi 1962, p. 19; G. Piovene and A. Palluchini 1968, p. 90 under no. 41; H. Braham in London 1981, p. 73; M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco 1993, p. 249 under no. 73, p. 312 under no. 207.
3. See G. Pavanello in Literature.
4. See M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco 1993, pp. 165-66, 174.
5. Ibid., p. 211.
6. C. Whistler in K. Christiansen, ed., New York 1996, p. 208.
7. "A Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Pictures, Entirely the Property of a Gentleman, a Distinguished Conoisseur," London, George Stanley, 31 March 1824, lot 6.
8. See M. Gemin and F. Pedrocco 1993, p. 437, cat. no. 431.
9. See E.K. Waterhouse 1958, p. ix.