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Key facts
Full title Two Orientals 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 x 53 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1960
Inventory number NG6305
Location Room 39
Art route(s) C
Collection Main Collection
Two Orientals 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 shows off his glorious costume, a bushy moustache giving him extra character. He clutches a jar and looks across the scene, though his eyes are hidden by his headwear.

Depictions of people in ‘oriental’ dress (from around the Eastern Mediterranean) were very popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Such subjects were especially popular in prints: we know that Giovanni Battista Tiepolo studied and owned several ‘oriental’ prints by seventeenth-century artists such as Rembrandt and Castiglione.

This is one of four decorative panels commissioned from Tiepolo by the Cornaro family for their villa in northern Italy. The others – Seated Man, Woman with Jar, and Boy, Two Men in Oriental Costume and Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield – are also in the National Gallery’s collection.

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Four Decorative Scenes


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.