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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Two Men seated under a Tree

Key facts
Full title Two Men seated under a Tree
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Series Four Decorative Scenes
Date made about 1740-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 158.8 × 53 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1960
Inventory number NG6305
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Two Men seated under a Tree
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Two men in turbans are seated under a tree that provides little shade. One has his back to us; the other, who wears his clothing in elaborate layers, has a bushy moustache that gives him extra character. He rests his right arm on a jar and looks across the scene, though his eyes are hidden by his headgear.

Depictions of people in Eastern Mediterranean dress were very popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially in prints. We know that Giovanni Battista Tiepolo studied and owned several similar prints by seventeenth-century artists such as Rembrandt and Benedetto Castiglione.

This is one of four decorative paintings commissioned from Tiepolo for a room in the Palazzo Cornaro on the Campo San Polo, Venice. The others – Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy, Two Standing Figures and Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield – are also in the National Gallery’s collection. All four scenes are inspired by the popular sixteenth-century epic poem Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso.

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Four Decorative Scenes


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 important commissions for large 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 Standing Figures and Two Men 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 atmosphere that evokes the poem’s setting.