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The Crowning with Thorns
Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico
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Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico

Venice (Italy), 1727 - Venice (Italy), 1804

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The Crowning with Thorns

1772. Oil on canvas.
Room 023

Giandomenico Tiepolo was the elder of Giambattista’s two artist sons, and his closest collaborator. While training with his father prepared him to assist with his mural decorations, Giandomenico also established himself as an independent painter, with his own commissions. In 1762 he accompanied his father to Spain, where the latter had been commissioned to paint a fresco on the dome of the Throne Room in Madrid’s Royal Palace. Giandomenico remained there until his father’s sudden death on 27 March 1770, and returned to Venice within the year, beginning an original creative phase that lasted until his own death on 3 March 1804. The Crowning with Thorns, 1771-72, is one of a series of eight scenes from Christ’s Passion that the artist made in Venice after returning from Madrid. While he painted all eight in Venice, Giandomenico may have received the commission towards the end of his stay in Spain. All eight works were presented publicly at the Venetian Piazza San Marco on 31 August 1772, a practice that occurred on specific occasions when works were to leave the city. Nothing is known of the conditions stipulated in the contract extended by the secular clergymen of San Felipe Neri in Madrid, if there was a contract at all. Therefore no documents demonstrating the possible limitations imposed on the works’ format, total numbers of scenes, size and so on have been identified. However, it does seem possible that limitations existed that decisively affected the artist’s work. This can be deduced from the very low viewpoints and the anatomical deformation of certain figures, which Giandomenico may have employed deliberately to correct optical distortions resulting from the painting being hung at a great height. All of the figures may have needed to be visible to a large number of worshippers at once, in much the same way as the Stations of the Cross; although that is not the exact subject of this group.

Unlike other canvases on similar themes, these works are deliberately claustrophobic and disquieting, despite the fact that the events take place outdoors. To achieve this feeling Giandomenico crowds the foreground with figures, including those necessary to represent the story as well as a few others needed to create the highly dramatic atmosphere that invites the viewer to reflect upon the events being represented. This atmosphere, the artificial gradation of colours, the theatrical props and the almost expressionist appearance of some of the faces, imbue the scene with a deliberate feeling of unreality that transports us to an event of particular religious significance and incomparable dramatic possibilities.

The artist’s intention seems to have been to convert each representation into a symbol, a depiction of the sacrifice imposed upon the Son of God. Perhaps that is why almost all of the figures he depicts have an appearance of serene contentment, avoiding especially melodramatic gestures. The pathos comes not from their faces, but from believers’ identification with the sense of drama; a sense that alludes not only to Christ’s physical suffering and torment, but also to the resignation with which he bore this tragedy, which imbues his suffering with a transcendent dimension. That may be the most important characteristic of this entire series: the combination of all Giandomenico’s technical and expressive resources to achieve a dramatic atmosphere, not usually associated with the world created by the Tiepolo family, who have generally been considered more capable of creating effects than of provoking sentiments.

Úbeda de los Cobos, Andrés, Giandomenico Tiepolo 'The Crown of Thorns'. En cat. exp. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.226


Technical data

Inventory number
Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico
The Crowning with Thorns
Height: 124 cm; Width: 144 cm
Serie de la Pasión de Cristo para San Felipe Neri (Madrid)
Convent of San Felipe Neri, of the Philippian Oratorians, formerly Professed House of Saint Francis Borgia, of the Jesuits, Madrid; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 266.

Mariuz, Adriano, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Alfieri, Venecia, 1965, pp. lám. 234.

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

Knox, George, Tiepolo, Tecnica e Immaginazione, Alfieri, Venecia, 1979, pp. 124, 125.

Knox, George, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. Vol. I. Text, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 305.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 683.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991.

Luna, Juan José, Pintura europea del siglo XVIII: guía, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1997, pp. 145-148.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson,Mississipi, 2001, pp. 66.

Úbeda de los Cobos, Andrés, Giandomenico Tiepolo 'The Crown of Thorns', En cat. exp. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 226.

Giandomenico Tiepolo y sus retratos de fantasía: el artista en la Corte, Banca March, 2014, pp. 55.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 2128.
2128.-(90-J.)-La coronacion de espinas.-Un judío, armado de manoplas de hierro, encaja la corona en la sagrada cabeza de Jesus, á quien otro amenaza con un palo. Pilato y el pueblo lo contemplan.-Fondo: arco romano, y monumento erigido en honor de Tiberio.-Compañero de los dos anteriores. / Véase la nota al núm. 2126. / Alto 1,24; ancho 1,44.-L.

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 90.
ESCUELAS ITALIANA. / DOMINGO TIEPOLO. [...] 90. La Coronacion de espinas. / Lienzo.- Al. 1,225.- An. 1,45. - Fig. 1,10. / Tiepolo. / Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, sentado sobre una losa teniendo una caña entre las manos y sobre los hombros un manto rojo, sufre humildemente que un sayon, medio desnudo con las manos cubiertas con manoplas de hierro, le clave la corona de espinas: soldados y gente del pueblo presencian el martirio. En el fondo sobre un muro se ve el busto de Tiberio.

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 90.
90. La Coronacion de espinas de Jesucristo. / Figuras de cuerpo entero menor del natural. / Tiepolo (sin firmar). Este cuadro y los 91, 92, 93 y 94 y forman coleccion. / alto 1,24; ancho, 1,044. / / Nº 63 / S.Pa.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in yellow. Front, upper right area

Inscribed in golden colour. Front, upper right area

Inscribed in white. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Tha majesty of spain. Royal collections from the Museo del Prado & patrimonio nacional (La majestad de España)
Jackson MS
01.03.2001 - 03.09.2001

Location +

Room 023 (On Display)

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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