I confess without embarrassment that I’m an unabashed Tiepolo fan. For those of you who aren’t aware, this was the name of not one, but three famous painters, a father and sons combination renowned for fresco work during the late Renaissance and touted as the finest of them all. Three of Tiepolo’s rare paintings are actually in the Victorian Gallery in Melbourne, one insured for 300 million dollars. It is the father Giovanni Batista Tiepolo (aka Giambattista) who is responsible for the bulk of the works though, and that’s whose art I came to see.
So it was that this time I was passing through Udine I’d made a point of seeing what I missed out on last time; the Patriarchal Palace. Inside were some of the works with a piece de resistance apparently in a hallway. I yearned to go and see the rooms that Patriarch Dionisio Delfino had had painted in order to impress.
We lucked out with parking, found a spot but two blocks away from the palace and beneath the museum on the hill which was number two on the list. We found our way to the Diocesan Palace by asking locals and duly paid the entry fee, a modest six euros for old farts and they’re not concerned about which country you come from – pensioners are welcome, unlike in Britain where our own head of state disowns us.
There are so many works of art in this building you’re rubbernecking all the time from the second you head up the stairs. Domenico Fabris’ 19thC ceiling fresco of the mission of Saint Ermacora (a local Aquileian lad) looks like it was painted only last week.
Then, time in the hallways and library (the first public one in Udine –dating from 1711) with Niccolo Bambini’s ceiling, set above gilded framed portraits of cardinals, will have you gazing upwards in awe. You can’t help but notice the meticulous stuccoworks that line each room and stairway either, and that all the frescoes are in excellent condition. On a wall somewhere, Tiani has a voluptuous and decidedly buxom La Maddelana gazing at angelic figures high in the woods which catches my attention, probably because her breasts are exposed.
In the Sala Azzura, yet another of the highlights, the intricate work of precious grotesques is by Giovanni da Udine, then it’s on to fifty three pieces of unusually crafted Friulian wooden sculpture, laid out chronologically from the twelfth to eighteenth centuries.
We wind up in the guest gallery, designed to impress, a masterpiece by any standards. It’s an elongated hallway with stunning works from Tiepolo, exquisitely composed and elaborately framed, reflecting his use of light, depth and space. The fresco of Rachel stealing the idols, from Genesis 31, has me shaking my head. I also can’t believe we’ve got the hall to ourselves (and most of the museum for that matter). Were this in Rome or Florence there’d surely be a queue waiting to get in?
It was here that Tiepolo’s ascent to fame was completed and he was then sought after everywhere. I tarry in this gallery a tad longer than Lorraine, happy to wallow in such splendour, whose like I may never see again.
All too soon we’re out in the 30 degree temperature again, back adjacent to the carpark and walking up a mercifully shaded zig-zag route to the top of Udine’s only hill where the Civic Museum is located.