At the Frick, Tiepolo’s Divine Lovers, Lost to War and Resurrected

Jul 04, 2019 102

BY: Jason Farago

The lovers are soaring through gold. In Giambattista Tiepolo’s fresco “Perseus and Andromeda,” which was painted around 1730-31 and luxuriated across the ceiling of a Milanese palazzo, a winged horse spirits away the boyish Perseus, a heroic son of Jupiter with a mop of golden hair, who has just driven his lance into a ravenous sea monster. He has rescued the chained Andromeda, and now they are flying; she’s nude but for the broken manacles still dangling from her wrists and ankles, and her skin is a blotchy peach tone, despite her heritage as princess of Aethiopia.

Beneath them, the impaled monster wails from its horrid maw. Above, Jupiter looks benevolently upon Andromeda’s suppliant parents. Cupids flutter, nereids gawk. And the clouds are as golden as sunshine — or at least I suppose they were, for now the final fresco endures only in black-and-white photographs. It was destroyed in August 1943, along with most of the palazzo, when Allied bombs pummeled Italy’s industrial capital.

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