Henri III being welcomed to the Contarini Villa
Venice, 1696 - Madrid, 1770
Around 1745, fresco mounted on canvas, 7,29 x 4,02 m
The most beautiful embellishment of the Hôtel Jacquemart-André is the fresco by Giambattista Tiepolo, painted for the Villa Contarini in Mira (Venetia), where the Andrés discovered it in 1893. It clearly demonstrates the illusionist mastery of the Italian painter.
The subject chosen is taken from French national history, which certainly must have pleased Edouard André. It relates the welcome of Henri III (of Italian descent through his mother Catherine de Médicis) to Venice on his journey returning to Paris to succeed his brother Charles IX to the throne of France. He was received there by the Doge Contarini. The fresco was therefore saluted by the Gazette des Beaux-Arts journal in 1896: “No other Tiepolo can be closer to our hearts; one would say it was made for us. The last great Venetian painter and a part of the history of France: is it not the most beautiful blend of Venetian and French?”
The Count Algarotti, a contemporary of Tiepolo, described this fresco to a friend in a letter dated from 10 May 1750: “Through a large picture window represented by the painter on the wall, one sees the king mounting the steps of a loggia, with a large cortege of French and Polish gentlemen, pages and guards, dwarfs and trumpets and all the rest … The Contarinis welcome him at the top of the terrace steps. In the background, the Brenta with all kinds of small boats, beautiful palaces and gardens. And all with a brush and a magnificence worthy of Paolo Véronèse. On the two smaller surfaces, two windows are painted with balconies opened onto the room and a number of people gesticulating with Venetian grace, there to see the arrival of the king.”
A ceiling by the same artist depicting The announcement of the arrival of the king completed the decor of the Venetian villa. The ceiling was installed in the Dining Room of the Hôtel. Happy times when one could buy such a collection of Tiepolo’s work and add the two ceilings in the Study and the Boudoir all in the same year. The Jacquemart-André museum is today the only French museum with a fresco by the Venetian master.