Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, 1727–1804),
Saint Joseph and the Christ Child
, ca. 1750
oil on canvas, 17 5/8 x 14 3/8 in.; 44.77 x 36.51 cm
Bequest of Dorothy Bonin-Longare, 1994.36
Trained by his father, the great Venetian Rococo painter Giambattista Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico’s early works, such as this, continue the elder’s much-admired style. Its distinguishing elements include delicate line, flickering, airy brushstrokes, and a light palette of soft pinks, cool blues, and icy whites. The emotional characterization of the two figures reflects eighteenth-century sensibility in general, but also reveals Giovanni Domenico’s particular preference for reality-based imagery. With great naturalism, St. Joseph tenderly holds the Christ Child, who is happily clutching a flower wreath. In a charming twist on traditional religious representations, the wreath takes the place of a conventional halo.