GIOVANNI BATTISTA TIEPOLO
The Saints of the Crotta Family
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1441
195 × 320 cm
Executed in the 1740s for Giovanni Antonio Crotta, Tiepolo’s monumental painting remained in the Palazzo Crotta in Venice until it was purchased for the Städel in 1902. It depicts an event from the early history of the patrician family which traced its genealogy back to forebears in antique Bergamo. Among them was St. Grata, approaching from the right and accompanied by the local martyr saints Fermus and Rusticus. In an analogy to the Old Testament story of Judith and Holofernes, she tries to convert her heathen parents – the municipal lord Lupus, enthroned on the left, and his wife Adelheid – by presenting the head of St. Alexander, who has been executed at her father’s command. Flowers miraculously sprout from this head. The Christianization of Bergamo in Late Antiquity thus appears closely interwoven with the history and deeds of the Crotta family, which brought forth both rulers and saints. Tiepolo stages the incident in illustriously theatrical manner, placing it in a splendid antique-style architectural setting constructed of a light shade of marble with which the figures’ glowing garments contrast to great effect.
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