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Abraham and the three Angels
Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista
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Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista

Venice (Italy), 1696 - Madrid (Italy), 1770

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Abraham and the three Angels

Ca. 1770. Oil on canvas.
Room 023

This painting presents an event mentioned in the book of Genesis (18, 1. 19). Giambattista Tiepolo had depicted this subject earlier in a painting from the series he painted for the palace of the Archbishop of Udine in 1726. Here, however, it is presented in a more modern manner, with a contained equilibrium among all parts of the composition and a harmonious coexistence of neoclassical values with others marked by a curious pre-Romantic spirit.

This work’s formal type and the basic principles of its style indicate that it was painted towards the end of the artist’s life, possibly at the same time as his paintings for the church of San Pascual in Aranjuez, whose first sketches were made in late August, 1767. Curiously, some aspects reflect the esthetic of Anton Raphael Mengs, a young and more modern painter who was Tiepolo’s competitor at the court in Madrid. Not only does the present work recall the formulas employed in the definitive canvases for the church of San Pascual; it also parallels some of the models used there. That coincidence is especially clear in the imposing angel at the center, whose handsome, arrogant and haughty figure dominates the composition. This angel is extraordinarily similar to the one bearing the Host that presides the now fragmented depiction of Saint Paschal Baylon Worshiping the Holy Sacrament from the series in Aranjuez, which also belongs to the Museo del Prado (P364). A sketch of this latter work is at the Courtauld Institute in London.

Abraham is shown in a worshipful posture before the miracle that has taken place in his own house: the angels who have come to announce that his aged wife, Sarah, will soon conceive a son. As such, he is one of a series of old men with long beards that people Tiepolo’s works. Both Abraham’s posture and that of the other two angels are dynamic, contrasting with the solemnly hieratic stance of the angel who occupies the most outstanding position in the group. The background is interesting for its severe character and the peculiar still life formed by the objects in the lower right corner.

The origin of this work is unknown. It was first mentioned in print in 1942, twenty-eight years after it was donated to the Museo del Prado by the Sainz family. Nothing is known of its earlier history. Consequently, it seems possible that it may originally have been painted for a chapel, possibly part of a religious foundation, or a private prayer chapel belonging to an aristocratic or bourgeois family linked to court circles (Text drawn from Luna, J. J.: El Prado en el Ermitage, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 172-173).

Technical data

Inventory number
Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista
Abraham and the three Angels
Ca. 1770
Height: 196 cm; Width: 151 cm; Base/bottom: 2.5 cm
Bequest of Mariano Sáinz y Hernando, 1924.

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier (1891-1971)), J. B. Tiepolo en España /, Instituto Diego Velázquez., Madrid, 1953, pp. 23/ láms.36,37.

Morassi, Antonio, A complete catalogue of the paintings of G.B. Tiepolo: inclu, Phaidon Press, Londres, 1962, pp. 22 / lám.4.

Rizzi, A., Mostra del Tiepolo. Dipinti, Electa, Venecia, 1971.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Piovene, Guido, La obra pictórica completa de Tiépolo, Noguer, Barcelona.Madrid, 1976.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 681.

Arnáiz, José Manuel, Los pintores de la Ilustración, Ayuntamiento, Concejalía de Cultura, Madrid, 1988, pp. 118-119.

El settecento veneciano: aspectos de la pintura veneciana de, Fundación cultural Mapfre vida, Zaragoza, 1990.

Mangiante, Paolo Erasmo, Goya e l' Italia, Fratelli Palombi, Roma, 1992, pp. 148 / lám.207.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 308.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº1492.

Mano, José Manuel de la, Tiepolo's commission for the Collegiate church of the Holly Trinity at La Granja de San Ildefonso., The Burlington Magazine, 139 (1133), 1997, pp. 539 / lám.26.

Pham, Alexandre, Niccolò Jommelli, GOLDBERG: EARLY MUSIC MAGAZINE = REVISTA DE MUSICA ANTIGUA, 1998, pp. 31.

Pedrocco, Filippo, Giambattista Tiepolo, Gruppo Skira, Milano, 2002, pp. 282.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 172-173.

Giandomenico Tiepolo y sus retratos de fantasía: el artista en la Corte, Banca March, 2014, pp. 48.

Lissoni, E, 'Giandomenico Tiepolo. Abramo e i tre angeli. (Galleria dell' Academia, Venezia)' En:, Tiepolo: Venezia, Milano, l´Europa, Edizioni Gallerie d´Italia: Skira,, 2020, pp. p284 fig.1 [.O.R].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1492.
Autor: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo / 1492. Asunto= 'Abraham y los tres angeles' / Dimensiones: 195 m alto; ancho, 1,52.- / Lienzo. / Donativo de D. Mariano Sáinz Hernando, aceptado por el Patronato en 20 de marzo de 1924.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1985. Núm. 2464.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1933. Núm. 2464.

Exhibitions +

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

Goya e Italia
28.05.2008 - 15.09.2008

El Settecento veneciano
06.10.1990 - 09.12.1990

Location +

Room 023 (On Display)

Update date: 31-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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