Triumph of the Arts and Sciences

Study for a ceiling fresco

Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770)
Triumph of the Arts and Sciences, ca. 1730–31
Oil on canvas
21 7/8 × 28 3/8 in. (55.5 × 72 cm)
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon
© Direção-Geral do Património Cultural / Arquivo de Documentação Fotográfica (DGPC/ADF); photo Luisa Oliveira

 

This is one of three surviving sketches by Tiepolo for Palazzo Archinto, here reunited for the first time. When Tiepolo painted this one, he had no idea what the quadratura around the fresco was going to look like; he therefore left his figures hovering in a cloudy sky, surrounded by an area of brown ocher color. The allegorical figures that populate this sketch are portrayed under the protection of Minerva and Apollo. At top left is Saturn, winged and with his scythe to signify the timeless nature of the arts and sciences. Each of the female figures in the painting is associated with an art or a science. Painting, brandishing brush and palette, is at center right. To her left is Music, seated with a viola. The woman with a closed book and the other one with a pen and an open book, are possibly History or Literature and Poetry, respectively. Further to the left is Sculpture, leaning over a marble bust and holding a chisel. To the left, on another cloud, are Arithmetic (in her left hand, a scroll inscribed with numbers) and Architecture (with a pendulum). Behind them, to the left, are Astronomy, measuring the heavens with a compass, and Dialectic in a helmet with white and black feathers and a half-moon on her forehead, and holding a double-edged dagger. At the right, a beautiful male figure with multicolored wings and holding an object that has been variously identified as a lens, magnifying glass, or mirror, may be an allegory referring to color and vision.