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Key facts
Full title Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Series Four Decorative Scenes
Date made about 1740-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 160.4 x 53.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1960
Inventory number NG6304
Location Room 39
Art route(s) C
Collection Main Collection
Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
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Within a walled garden, a man wearing a striking blue costume and ornate necklace catches the gaze of a woman holding a jar. A young boy stands just behind her, carrying a spear. Beyond the wall we glimpse treetops and birds flying across a bright sky.

This picture is part of a series of four paintings that once decorated a room in the Palazzo Cornaro on the Campo San Polo, Venice. The pictures are based on Torquato Tasso’s epic poem Jerusalem Delivered which is set during the First Crusade, a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule. The poem tells of the ill-fated love between the Saracen sorceress Armida and Rinaldo, a Christian knight. The woman in this scene may represent Armida who, left heartbroken by Rinaldo’s sudden departure, decides to join the fight against the Crusaders. The exotically dressed man sitting at her feet is probably Adrastus, an Indian prince who vows to tear out Rinaldo’s heart to satisfy Armida’s desire for revenge.

The figures’ twisted poses create a sense of movement within the picture, and Tiepolo’s lively brushstrokes add vibrancy to the wonderful fabrics and patterns on display.

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Four Decorative Scenes

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These four narrow canvases were painted during the 1740s by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to decorate a room on the second floor of the Palazzo Cornaro on the Campo San Polo, Venice. Tiepolo was enjoying growing fame across Italy at this time; receiving prestigious commissions for monumental ceiling paintings and wall decorations.

The paintings formed part of a complex decorative scheme, with which a ceiling painting (now in Canberra) and four allegorical figures (now divided between New York and Amsterdam), have been associated. Tiepolo’s four paintings in the National Gallery – Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield, Seated Man, Woman with Jar and Boy, Two Men in Oriental Costume and Two Orientals seated under a Tree – are inspired by Torquato Tasso’s popular sixteenth-century poem Jerusalem Delivered. Set during the First Crusade, a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule, the poem tells of the ill-fated love between the Saracen sorceress Armida and Rinaldo, a Christian knight. Tiepolo’s pale pastel tones and lively brushwork in these scenes create a dazzling and exotic atmosphere.