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Sacred Eloquence

Giambattista Tiepolo and the Rhetoric of the Altarpiece

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Johanna Fassl

This book offers an innovative approach to the altarpieces of Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) by discussing them within the intellectual context of the first half of the eighteenth century. Tiepolo occupies a particular position in the history of art: firmly embedded in the eighteenth century, he is one of the last great painters of the classical tradition, and, at the same time, one of the precursors of modernity.
Why has Tiepolo’s religious art often been misunderstood? How can the abbreviation and absence of key symbols in the images be explained and why is this rhetoric of absence so utterly modern? Deliberately concentrating on what is not painted, rather than what is in the picture, the book deals with Tiepolo’s lacunism as an eighteenth-century phenomenon anticipating modernity. It discusses four different forms of rhetoric: iconic, narrative, silent, and visionary. Each discourse calibrates the images within their contemporary religious and philosophical context, which promote this type of rhetoric as highly innovative.

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Contents

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Preface .................................................................................................... 13 List of Illustrations ............................................................................... 19 Abbreviations ........................................................................................ 25 INTRODUCTION Poetic Rhetoric: The “Discovery of the True Homer” Painted Rhetoric: Mercury at Ca’ Sandi ............................................ 29 Rhetoric in Practice and in Theory: The Sandi, Goldoni, Muratori, and Vico .......................................... 45 Poetic Rhetoric: Jeroglifici ...................................................................... 55 “The Discovery of the True Homer” ................................................ 61 Vico, Venice, and the Radical Enlightenment .................................. 70 CHAPTER I Dialogue: Iconicity Dialogue ................................................................................................. 79 The Triad at SS. Massimo e Osvaldo ................................................ 81 Excursus: The History of the Iconography of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt .................................................. 90 Iconicity: Signs Telling the Story ........................................................ 95 Memory ................................................................................................ 103 Sacred Eloquence 10 Eighteenth-Century Devotion: Eucharist as Sacrifice .................. 114 Night: Sacrifice, Devotion, and Beholding ..................................... 123 CHAPTER II Narrative: Historia The Importance of Novità ................................................................. 141 The Martyrdom of Saint Agatha ........................................................... 149 Transcending Alberti’s Historia: Signs and Countersigns .............. 155 The Body of Saint Agatha: Temptation or Contemplation? ........ 173 The Sacro Cuore: Body and Blood ..................................................... 186 Invention: Specular Narrative ........................................................... 193 CHAPTER III Muta Poesis: The Chorus Silence ................................................................................................... 203 The Sant’Alvise Triad ......................................................................... 209 Orientals ............................................................................................... 221 Excursus: The Transformation of the Ottoman ............................ 234 The Chorus: The Spectator in the Picture ...................................... 242 The Viewer: The Poesis of Reception ............................................... 254 The Worshipper: The silenziosa orazione mentale ....................... 259 CHAPTER IV Metalanguage: Visions Framing the Beyond: Vision and Painting ...................................... 273 Contents 11 The Eye of the Imagination: The Vision of Saint John Nepomuk ...................................................... 277 Invisibilia per visibilia: The Apparition of the Virgin and Child to Saint Philip Neri ................ 291 The Eye of the Intellect: The Vision of Saint Roch ........................... 304 The Eye of Ingenium: Giants and Philosophers...

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