Apollo and the Continents

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Italian (1696–1770)
18th century
c. 1739
Oil on canvas
39 x 25 in. (99.1 x 63.5 cm) Framed: 49 1/4 x 31 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (125.1 x 80 x 8.3 cm)
AP 1985.04
Currently On View
This exquisitely prepared oil sketch served as Tiepolo’s model for a frescoed vault in the Palazzo Clerici in Milan, commissioned by Marquess Antonio Giorgio Clerici. Clerici married Fulvia Visconti in 1741, uniting two of the most powerful families in Milan, and Apollo and the Continents commemorated the impending nuptials. At the center of the sketch the sun god, Apollo, emanates a brilliant, yellow light. Nearby, nestled in the cloudbanks, are six planetary deities—Diana, Mercury, and Jupiter above Apollo; and Saturn, Venus, and Mars at his feet. In the four corners of the vault, whose fictive cornice is finished in gold, are personifications of the seasons and river gods, including Milan’s river Po, identifiable by his bull’s horns. Silhouetted against the heavenly light are two embracing figures: Cupid bears his beloved Psyche to Mount Olympus, where an assembly of gods will celebrate their marriage. The auspicious nuptial imagery of the sketch, with its allusions to abundance and fertility, speaks to the dynastic aspirations of Antonio Clerici and his new bride.

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Tiepolo, Apollo and the Continents


Eugène Piot [1812-1890], Paris, from 1873; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 21-24 May 1890, no. 579, as Tiepolo, “Esquisse de plafond”); purchased for 3300ƒ by Camille Groult, [1837-1908], Paris; by inheritance to his son, Jean Groult [1868-1951], Paris; (sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 21 March 1952, no. 95, purchased by Treuchfelder (?), Switzerland). Alfred Hausammann, Zurich, probably by 1953; purchased through (E.V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York) by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1985.