Author: Giambattista Tiepolo

Century: XVIII°

Church: Church of Santa Maria del Rosario (Gesuati)

DATE: 1737-39

POSITION: ceiling;

MEASUREMENT: 1400 x 450 cm

METHOD: fresco

This fresco is one of the three frames on the ceiling and represents the most important episodes in the Dominican founder’s life. It narrates the Virgin Mary delievering the rosary and her sermon in France. In these frames Giambattista experiments with a new use of color, inspired by Veronese: he abandons the strong, sharp shades and chooses a very delicate and chromatic palette, with soft pale colors and at the same time iridescent.

The central scene is composed of an ample staircase with fifteen steps showing a very narrow perspective, Domenico is in the center of the canvas with the Virgin Mary on his left. The crowd mills around in various groups to receive the rosaries from the Saint’s hand. On the right of the Saint, there is a crowd of Orientals and warriors. On the lower part of the composition figures seem to precipitate; among these, one has snakes in her hands and hair and another holds a bag of coins in her hands. Barely above, a bold infantryman’s leg is suspended testing the emptiness beneath him.

Tiepolo studied the three large partitions on the ceiling in five sketches. The central partition was done in three preparatory designs. The first, at the Staatliche Museum of Berlin, was destroyed during the Second World War: it was a rather different idea from the realization, with the figure of the Virgin Mary elevated and only a five step staircase.  Speaking of which, it may seem that the religious clients were not satisfied and asked the Maestro for a new model, now found in a private collection in Milan. In this one, the figure of the Virgin Mary was reduced and positioned in the center next to Saint Domenico and an infantryman was added on the staircase. Finally, the third sketch, conserved in a private German collection, displays of a scene nearly identical to the realization.