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Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

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 fill a bright sky.

This picture is part of a series of four decorative paintings based on Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, a poem set in the First Crusade (1096–99), a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule. It doesn‘t illustrate a specific subject, but is seemingly more inspired by the people and motifs in Tasso’s poem.

The figures’ twisted poses create a sense of movement, while the wonderful fabrics and patterns, made up of loose brushstrokes that catch the light, add vibrancy and a feeling of energy.

Key facts
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Full title Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy
Group 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 in Gallery Room 39
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Four Decorative Scenes

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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted these four narrow panels during the 1740s for a Venetian palazzo near Merlengo, northern Italy. At this time Tiepolo was enjoying growing fame across Italy, and receiving prestigious commissions for monumental ceiling paintings and wall decorations in grand palaces.

The paintings were inspired by Torquato Tasso’s popular sixteenth-century poem Jerusalem Delivered, which was set during the First Crusade, a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule. However, Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield is the only panel in the series with an identifiable story: the ill-fated love of the Muslim sorceress Armida and Rinaldo, a Christian knight.

The other panels – Seated Man, Woman with Jar and Boy, Two Men in Oriental Costume and Two Orientals seated under a Tree – include objects and types of people found in Tasso’s poem. In all of the paintings, Tiepolo’s pale pastel tones and soft brushstrokes create a dazzling atmosphere.

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