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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 'Four Saints', before 1737

Key facts
Full title Saints Augustine, Louis of France, John the Evangelist and a Bishop Saint
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Date made before 1737
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 58.1 × 33.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1193
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Four Saints
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

This oil sketch shows the design for an altarpiece that Giovanni Battista Tiepolo made for the church of San Salvatore in Venice in 1737. The scene unites saints from different periods and places. Seated on the throne and holding a flaming heart to symbolise his love for God is Saint Augustine (354–430), Bishop of Hippo and an influential theologian. Saint John the Evangelist, who authored one of the Gospels, sits on the right with an eagle, his symbol. Saint Louis – Louis IX, King of France, who died in 1270 – appears on the left. We don't know who the bishop in a golden robe is, but all of these saints would have been important to the Cornaro family, who commissioned the altarpiece.

Loose, energetic brushstrokes give the scene a rich, decorative texture, as do the touches of bold colour used to evoke sumptuous fabrics and delicate details, such as in Saint Augustine’s embroidered robe and Saint John’s rich red drapery.

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