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Allegory of Virtue and Nobility

Allegory of Virtue and Nobility, c. 1747-48

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Italian, 1696-1770
Oil on canvas
126 x 154-1/2 in. (320 x 392.4 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

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In this monumental painting, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo depicts the triumph of Virtue and Nobility over the vice of Ignorance, all three personified by female figures. Nobility, wrapped in saffron- and rose-colored fabric, and winged Virtue, holding a crown of laurels, look down with disdain at the tumbling figure of Ignorance, who is cast into shadows by a furious cherub. To the left, Fame blows a trumpet to announce the victory. For the elite viewers for whom the work was created, intellectual interest in the allegorical subject matter was matched with delight at impressive illusionistic effect—one of Tiepolo’s characteristic talents. In its original setting, fixed to the ceiling of a grand room in the Palazzo Dolfin-Manin in Venice, the painting would have altered the perception of space, seemingly puncturing the architecture of the palace to grant access to a mythological realm.

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