Thursday 8 November 2018

Tiepolo in Milan: The Lost Frescoes of Palazzo Archinto

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Perseus and Andromeda, 1730–31, oil on canvas, The Frick Collection, New York; photo Michael Bodycomb. Cover picture The New World, 1791-97 by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista's son.
A new exhibition at the Frick Collection, Tiepolo in Milan: The Lost Frescoes of Palazzo Archinto, will reunite preparatory paintings and drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo for the first time. As the Frick does not loan works purchased by the institution’s founder, the New York City museum is the only place where these paintings and drawings can be seen together next April, Isabelle James reports

NEW YORK'S Frick Collection will bring together a series of important preparatory paintings and drawings by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, created in 1730 for his first significant project outside of Venice, the ceiling frescoes for Palazzo Archinto in Milan. The paintings were commissioned by Count Carlo Archinto, whose family distinguished itself in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries under both the Spanish and imperial rulers of Milan.

The family, considered to be one of the most prominent in the northern Italian capital, was celebrated for its intellectual pursuits. Carlo, in particular, was known for his interest in the arts and sciences, specifically mathematics and philosophy, and had collected the most important private library in the city. The decoration of his palace and Tiepolo’s frescoes were very much part of the Archinto family’s intellectual aspirations and interests.

The ceilings painted for the commission include five mythological and allegorical scenes that decorated several of the grandest rooms of the palace and were produced to celebrate the wedding of Carlo’s son Filippo and Giulia Borromeo, which took place in April 1731. The frescoes were praised after they were painted at the time by Serviliano Latuada, who remarked on their beauty in his 1737 guidebook to Milan, Descrizione di Milano.

Calamitously, the Palazzo was bombed during World War II, and its interior was completely destroyed. The only record of the finished frescoes in situ is a series of black and white photographs taken between 1897 and the late 1930s. The exhibition will present fifty objects from collections in the United States and Europe to tell the story of Tiepolo's important commission. It will feature six surviving preparatory paintings and drawings by the artist, among them the Frick’s oil sketch Perseus and Andromeda.

“Tiepolo in Milan is the latest in a series of exhibitions at the Frick to focus on outstanding Italian artists," says Xavier F. Salomo, the Frick’s Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator.  "It follows in the footsteps of Canova’s George Washington, which brought to life Canova’s lost eighteenth-century masterpiece, his only American commission. By bringing together the preparatory works for these great masterpieces, we are able to tell incredible stories that are in danger of being forgotten."

As the Frick does not loan works that were purchased by the institution’s founder, the New York City museum is the only place where these paintings and drawings can be seen together. Other complementary drawings and prints by Tiepolo will be on view, as well as several books of illustrations by the artist that were commissioned by Filippo Argelati, the Archinto family librarian and a noted intellectual of the day.

Of the preparatory works that survive from the Archinto commission, three painted sketches on canvas provide the most important evidence about the lost frescoes: Triumph of Arts and Sciences from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Apollo and Phaëton  from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Frick’s Perseus and Andromeda. These works will be joined by the only known drawings by Tiepolo related to the frescoes in Milan: one from London's British Museum, a second from the Civico Museo Sartorio in Trieste and a third from the Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki.

The show, that will open on April 16th and run until July 14th 2018, will also feature two Tiepolo oil sketches ~ from the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna and The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in England ~  that represent the myth of Phaëton and have been connected by scholars to the Archinto cycle.

An exhibition catalogue published by The Frick Collection in association with Paul Holberton Publishing will accompany the show. Included will be essays about Tiepolo’s work in Palazzo Archinto by Xavier F. Salomon, the architectural history of the palace by Alessandra Kluzer, the role of the Archinto frescoes in Tiepolo’s career by Andrea Tomezzoli, and the intellectual world of the Archinto family by Denis Ton.

Tiepolo in Milan: The Lost Frescoes of Palazzo Archinto from April 16th 2018 until July 14th 2018. at The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, near Fifth Avenue, New York.

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