Skip to main content

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 'Two Standing Figures', about 1740-6

Key facts
Full title Two Standing Figures
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Series Four Decorative Scenes
Date made about 1740-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 159.1 × 53.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1960
Inventory number NG6302
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Two Standing Figures
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Two men, wearing robes and headdresses of luxurious fabrics, stand huddled together. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s lively outlines and visible brushstrokes emphasise the long, showy sleeves and folds of their clothing. Hints of primary colours appear against more sombre tones, while the brilliant sunlight and subtle shade pick out the men’s expressive faces and textured beards. Tiepolo was immensely skilled at drawing faces, which is particularly noticeable here in the weathered complexion of the aged man closest to us.

This is one of four paintings that once decorated a room in the Palazzo Cornaro on the Campo San Polo, Venice. The figures are inspired by Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, a popular sixteenth-century poem that tells of the ill-fated love between a Christian knight (Rinaldo) and a Saracen sorceress (Armida). The characterful old man with a fluffy white beard is probably the magician of Ascalon who, after showing Rinaldo heroic images of warfare in a shield, lures him back to fight. The shield lying at the man’s feet reappears in another painting from the same series, Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

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.