Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Italian, 1696-1770
Title: Allegory of the Immaculate Conception
Date: c.1769
Medium: Oil on paper, laid on canvas
58.7 x 45 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1891
Object Number: NGI.353
DescriptionSurrounded by angels, God receives the Virgin with open arms. The triangular halo on his head signifies the trinity. The Virgin is kneeling in devotion, and from the sky above, the Holy Spirit sheds his light upon her. She is crowned with stars, and at her feet are the crescent moon, the terrestrial globe and the snake of original Sin. All these images are associated with the Lady of the Apocalypse – a symbol of purity and the prefiguration of the Immaculate Conception – as are the obelisk, the angel holding a mirror and the palm, which are all references to the Virgin.
The format, as well as the sketchy handling of this picture, indicate that it was a study for a fresco or a large canvas, which Tiepolo possibly did not have the time to carry out. Although Tiepolo painted the subject several times, the Dublin example is considered to be the most complex and the most charged with religious meaning.

March 2016

ProvenanceProbably brought back from Madrid to Venice by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo after his father's death in 1770; appeared on Venetian market after his own death in 1804; purchased by Duke of Portland in Venice c. 1870-1890; purchased, Christie's, London, 13 July 1891, G.A.F. Cavendish Bentick sale, lot 771
Exhibition HistoryLoan Exhibition Of Paintings from Public Collections of Friends of Coventry Overseas, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, 1960

Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery, London, 1985

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 18 September - 12 December 1993

Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696-1770, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, 22 October 1998 - 24 January 1999

Leibhaftig. Der menschliche Körper zwischen Lust und Schmerz, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 25 May 2014 - 22 February 2015
Label TextThe small scale and sketchy handling of this picture indicates that is probably a study for a fresco or large canvas. Long before the Catholic Church proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the event was commemorated in Spain, where Tiepolo was working at this date. The obelisk, crescent moon, globe, and the snake which represents original sin, are symbols associated with the Virgin. Crowned with stars, she kneels before God while the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, illuminates her.