NGV National Gallery of Victoria

A change in taste

Giambattista Tiepolo
Italian 1696–1770, worked in Spain 1762–70
The Immaculate Conception (L’Immacolata Concezione) 1767–69
oil on canvas
281.0 x 155.0 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P00363)
Spanish Royal Collection
The greatest of all Italian decorative painters, Giambattista Tiepolo arrived in Spain from Venice in 1762 to eventually replace the ailing Corrado Giaquinto. While in Spain he created some majestic paintings for courtly and church patrons, however, he did not attain the same level of success as earlier Italian visitors such as Luca Giordano or Giaquinto. A subtle but distinct shift in taste occurred at the Spanish court in the second half of the eighteenth century which saw a decline in interest in Italian art and culture. Indeed, Tiepolo was the last great Italian artist to work in Spain.

Even while Tiepolo was in Spain, taste there subtly moved away from the Rococo towards a more austere and academic classicism, a trend that was met and fostered by the influential German neoclassical artist Anton Raphael Mengs. He was enticed to Madrid during the 1760s and would dominate the arts of Spain in the late eighteenth century.

Later, a combination of drastic political and social changes in Spain and Europe contributed to the decline of the Spanish desire for contemporary Italian art. The Napoleonic era also brought an end to Spanish rule on the Italian Peninsula. Taste shifted more towards French art and that of Spanish artists, such as Francisco Bayeu y Subías, Luis Paret y Alcázar and Francisco de Goya.

Nevertheless, for three hundred years the arts of Italy and Spain were inextricably linked and during this time Italian painting was fundamental to Spain’s historical and cultural heritage.