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Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

(1727–1804, Venice)

The Arts Pay Homage to Pope Pius VI. Etching. 42.6 x 31.5 cm and 34.1 x 22.9 cm. 1775. De Vesme 98; Rizzi (1970) 154; Rizzi (1971) 158; Succi 180.

This complex, multi-figure composition, which is animated by Baroque verve and tempestuous dynamism, served as the frontispiece to the second and subsequent editions of Giandomenico’s Catalogo. With the skill of a virtuoso Giandomenico has forged the various protagonists with their many conspicuous attributes into a majestic composition in which allegoric figures symbolizing painting, music and architecture humbly pay their respects to Pope Pius VI. The Pope himself is enthroned upon a rock, holding the cross in his left hand and a goblet containing the Host in his right. Above him is a teeming throng of angels and cherubim, whose collective strength holds up the massive papal coat-of-arms, the symbol of his secular power. Here Tiepolo is at the pinnacle of his art. The extravagant and grandiose spectacle almost permits one to forget that, under this same pope, the Catholic Church was going through one of the deepest crises in its two-thousand-year history. During the pontificate of Pius VI (real name Giovanni Angeli, Count Braschi; 1717–1799) there were repeated instances of state intervention in Austria and Germany aimed at radically circumscribing papal influence in these countries. The head of the Catholic Church himself became a victim of European power politics when the Papal States were occupied by French troops in 1796. In February 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed the Roman Republic, and the pope was banished, first to Siena, then to Florence and finally deported to France, where he died in exile in the summer of 1799.

The present composition has been printed from two plates. The ornamental framework with oak leaves and pearl moulding is presumably the work of another artist. Prints with this decorative border are very rare.

A superb, very clear and vivid impression with margins. In excellent, unrestored condition.

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