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Sacred Eloquence

Giambattista Tiepolo and the Rhetoric of the Altarpiece


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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Abbreviations 25


Abbreviations ASV Archivio di Stato di Venezia BMC Biblioteca del Museo Correr, Venice BNM Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice BSPV Biblioteca del Seminario Patriarcale di Venezia B. Busta It is said that he [Raphael] took pictures, which frquently are considered the books of the illit- erate, and also asked the lettered to read them, making them speak to both their intellect and emotion. It is said that, in a certain way, he wanted to explain Quintilian, where he says that greater than the force of the artifices of rhetoric is that of painting. (Francesco Algarotti, Saggio sopra la pittura)

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