Tiepolo was in his mid-thirties when he was called to Milan, in 1730–31, to fresco five rooms of Palazzo Archinto. According to the Tiepolo scholar Michael Levey, the frescoes “must have been sumptuously rich and impressive. Tiepolo never received a commission for a private palazzo of comparable extent and rarely of such splendour.” The frescoes were destroyed by bombing in 1943, and all that survives is a large fragment of the architectural surround with one mutilated figure from the Triumph of the Arts and Sciences (now in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, and impossible to include in this exhibition because of its size).
The series of ceilings Carlo Archinto commissioned, in part to celebrate the wedding of his son Filippo to Giulia Borromeo, proclaimed the status of the Archinto family and was Carlo’s spiritual and visual testament, blending allegorical and mythological scenes. It is impossible to determine the chronology of Tiepolo’s activity in the palazzo or the precise location and sequence of the frescoes on the piano nobile. However, all the known preparatory works by Tiepolo for the palazzo — drawings and painted sketches — are here displayed together for the first time.
Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770), detail of Triumph of the Arts and Sciences, ca. 1730–31 (destroyed 1943), from Attilio Centelli and Gerardo Molfese, Gli affreschi di G.B. Tiepolo raccolti da Gerardo Molfese con uno studio di Attilio Centelli (Turin, 1897), pl. 1, Azienda di Servizi alla Persona Golgi-Redaelli, Milan (su autorizzazione dell'Azienda di Servizi alla Persona Golgi-Redaelli di Milano).