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It can be said that after Venice, Udine was the second home of Giambattista Tiepolo: and in fact, Udine is the first city on terra firma in which, Tiepolo, not yet thirty years of age, obtained important commissions, opening the doors to his success in Europe.
He came in Udine in 1725 on invitation from Dionisio Dolfin to decorate the patriarch’s recently restored palace. The first fresco was the ceiling of the grand staircase, with the Caduta degli Angeli Ribelli, and he later went on to decorate the Cappella del Santissimo in Duomo (Chapel of the Sacrament in the Cathedral).
When he arrived in Udine, Tiepolo was still tied to academic painting, but it was here that he found a particularly favourable environment, which, in contrast to the Venetian scene saturated with artists and their rivalries, was distinguished by a more “free-ranging” patronage, but one that was certainly more open and that encouraged his experimentation.
The most important moment came with the cycle of frescoes in the “Galleria” of the Palazzo Patriarcale: it was his first important achievement in painting on a large scale, where he was able to free himself from the baroque tradition and develop an individual and original artistic vocabulary. Here, together with his trusted drawing assistant Gerolamo Mengozzi-Colonna, he frescoed scenes from the Genesis: Il sogno di Giacobbe; Il sacrificio di Isacco; Agar nel deserto; Rachele nasconde gli idoli; Abramo e gli Angeli; Sara e l'Angelo, frescoes that, notwithstanding a lingering baroque influence, have an atmosphere of intimacy: with a countryside setting typically Friulian, with rosy clouds running over blue skies, just-pruned trees, against a background of hills and mountains. The colloquial tone is accentuated in Rachele nasconde gli idoli by the artist’s self-portrait dressed as Jacob, and a portrait of his wife, Cecilia Guardi, in the role of Rachel. The innovations achieved in the Galleria would find their natural apex in the Sala Rossa (Red Room) with the giant Giudizio di Salomone (350x650).
The Sala Rossa completed the decorative cycle of the Palazzo Patriarcale, but the work of Tiepolo in Udine did not stop there: besides the Cappella del Santissimo in Duomo (Chapel of the Sacrament in the Cathedral), he also completed frescoes in the Castle, two paintings in Palazzo Caiselli which were for the Chiesa dei Filippini; the clamorous and revolutionary Consilium in arena, in memory and celebration of an event important to the Udinese nobility, when they won (with no small effort) the privilege of enrollment in the Order of Malta as the Venetian nobility had done before them, and the decoration of the Chiesa della Purità together with his son Giandomenico.
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