This detached fresco is from a series of four ovals that were designed by Tiepolo and painted by his workshop for the decoration of the corners of the ceiling of a room in the Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala in Vicenza. The attributes of the mirror and the snake identify the allegorical figure as representing Prudence.
Prudence, together with three other oval paintings with allegorical figures—A Virtue, possibly Patriotism (43.85.22), Temperance (43.85.23), and Fortitude (43.85.24)—are detached frescoes, likely to have come from the Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala in Vicenza. A group of other detached frescoes—Metaphysics (43.85.13), Arithmetic (43.85.14), Geometry (43.85.15), Grammar (43.85.16), and Virtue and Abundance (43.85.12)—is known to have come from the Gallery of the palace, since traces of the detached frescoes were found in that room following a restoration campaign between 1983–86. The four Virtues share the same recent provenance, from the collection of Grace Rainey Rogers, with the other paintings from the palace and it has, therefore, been suggested that they decorated the same building.
The four detached frescoes have been wrongly believed to come from a villa on the Brenta canal (Morassi 1962), or a villa near Vicenza (Pallucchini 1968), or Villa Valier Bembo, known as La Chitarra (Precerutti Garberi 1968, Zeri and Gardner 1973). Enea Arnaldi’s 1779 guidebook of the sights of Vicenza describes in the palace of Count Giorgio Marchesini: "the Gallery . . . painted in fresco by Girolamo Colonna for what concerns the architecture, and by Giovan Battista Tiepolo for the figures . . . there is furthermore a room with groups in painted bronze, with four overdoors". It is possible that the four Virtues were the "groups in painted bronze" or the "four overdoors" described by Arnaldi in a room of the palace. It has been proposed that the Virtues were originally in the Saletta del Tempo e della Verità, the room adjacent to the Gallery of the Marchesini Palace (Cova 1986, Menegozzo 1990).
The frescoes in Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala were commissioned in 1760 by Giorgio Marchesini (Chignola 2004). Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted the figures, possibly with the assistance of his son Giovanni Domenico, and of Francesco Zugno. Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna, instead, produced the trompe l’oeil architectural background. The four ovals with the Virtues were painted by Tiepolo’s workshop, maybe following designs by Giovanni Battista.
The allegorical figure of Prudence is accompanied by her standard attributes, a mirror and a snake. The significance of the Greek inscriptions around the figure is unclear. Giorgio Marchesini was a well-known Mason, and his palace was used as a Masonic temple in the late 1730s. It has been suggested (Menegozzo 1990) that the entire cycle of frescoes by Tiepolo at Palazzo Marchesini may have a Masonic significance.
Another four overdoors with the Continents (MMA 43.85.17–20) are said to come from another room in the same palace, but their presence there is not documented.
[Xavier F. Salomon 2011]
Inscription: Inscribed (upper edge) with Greek and Latin characters
Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala, Vicenza (until or before 1909); [Durr Freedley, New York, about 1914/15; bought for Rogers]; Grace Rainey Rogers, New York (about 1914/15–d. 1943)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Enea Arnaldi. Descrizione delle architetture, pitture, e scolture di Vicenza. repr., 1982. Vicenza, 1779, part 2, p. 72, praises the decoration of the palazzo belonging to Giorgio Marchesini.
Pompeo Molmenti. G. B. Tiepolo: la sua vita e le sue opere. Milan, , p. 95, notes that the frescoes in the palazzo Marchesini have been detached from the walls and sold to foreigners.
Eduard Sack. Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo: Ihr Leben und Ihre Werke. Hamburg, 1910, vol. 2, p. 181, notes that the frescoes mentioned by Arnaldi [see Ref. 1779] in the palazzo Marchesini have been removed and sold.
Antonio Morassi. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962, pp. 33, 65, calls 43.85.21–24 "originally probably overdoors" [sic, for 43.85.17–20?]; tentatively dates the entire group of frescoes about 1750–60 and attributes all of them to Giovanni Domenico, possibly with the help of assistants for the purely decorative parts, working from designs by Giovanni Battista and under his direction; states that they are said to come from a villa on the Brenta but that there is no information on their exact provenance; includes the frescoes formerly in the palazzo Marchesini as a separate entry and states that their present whereabouts are unknown.
Anna Pallucchini inL'opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 1968, p. 136, lists the entire group under works of various attribution, noting that Morassi [see Ref. 1962] attributes only the designs to Giovanni Battista; lists the frescoes formerly in the palazzo Marchesini separately, under insufficiently documented works.
Mercedes Precerutti Garberi. Affreschi settecenteschi delle ville venete. Milan, 1968, pp. 141–42, pl. 92 [English ed., "Frescoes from Venetian Villas," London, 1971, pp. 127–28, pl. 92], tentatively identifies the subjects of the four oval frescoes (43.85.21–24) as Vanity, Fortitude, Glory, and Wisdom, and relates them to a similar series of four ovals of allegorical figures by Giovanni Battista (MMA, 1984.49 and 1997.117.8; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, A3437 and A3438); discusses Tiozzo's [see Ref. 1968] suggestion that the frescoes come from the villa Valier; notes differences in handling and quality in the various frescoes; finds the style of the entire group close to Giovanni Battista's mature works of 1754–57.
Clauco Benito Tiozzo. Gli affreschi delle ville del Brenta. Padua, 1968, p. 86, suggests that the frescoes may come from the villa Valier alla Chitarra.
Adriano Mariuz. Giandomenico Tiepolo. Venice, , p. 128, attributes 43.85.21–24 to Giovanni Domenico and dates the entire group of frescoes about 1757–60.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 197, 543, 608, as from the "school, shop, or studio" of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; call it "Allegorical Figure".
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 63–65, pl. 76, find the style of the frescoes close to Giovanni Battista's of the 1750s, and attribute them to pupils or assistants, possibly after a design by the master; add that 43.85.21–24 are of inferior quality and are in the manner of Giovanni Domenico.
George Knox. Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings. Oxford, 1980, vol. 1, p. 309, no. P.170, includes the series in a checklist of paintings by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.
Mauro Cova inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, pp. 22–23, 26–27, 31 nn. 1, 4, states that one of the rooms in the newly restored palazzo dei Conti Valle [palazzo Marchesini] has a partially intact ceiling decoration with an allegorical subject representing Time and Truth and also originally included four figures of virtues; dates the entire decorative cycle about 1743 and compares it with monochromes by Tiepolo in the cappella sagredo in San Francesco della Vigna, Venice; erroneously implies that the frescoes were removed sometime between the two world wars.
Vittorio Sgarbi inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, pp. 7–9, dates the frescoes between 1747 and 1750.
Vittorio Veller inPalazzo dei Conti Valle: annotazioni per un tesoro ritrovato. Vicenza, 1986, p. 16.
Mauro Cova. "Vicenza: Palazzo Valle-Marchesini-Sala, scoperta e restauro di un ciclo di affreschi (G.B. Tiepolo - G. Mengozzi-Colonna)." Arte veneta 41 (1987), pp. 258–59, mistakenly states that the frescoes were detached from the walls in the 1920s.
Franco Barbieri. Vicenza, città di palazzi. Milan, 1987, pp. 115–16.
Mauro Cova inI Tiepolo e il Settecento vicentino. Exh. cat., Basilica palladiana, Vicenza. Milan, 1990, p. 37, under no. 1.3.2, states that 43.85.21–24 come from a room in the palazzo Marchesini, where the restoration of 1986 has revealed traces of their original location.
Rita Menegozzo. Nobili e Tiepolo a Vicenza. Vicenza, 1990, pp. 73, 77, 81, 85–86.
Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo: i dipinti, opera completa. Venice, 1993, p. 371.
Ismaele Chignola. "Gli affreschi di Tiepolo a palazzo Valle Marchesini: nuovi elementi per una datazione." Arte veneta 61 (2004), pp. 233, 239 n. 3, dates the palazzo Marchesini frescoes to 1760.