F.G. Ménageot - Ritratto della famiglia Tiepolo
(London, 1744 - Paris, 1816)
Ritratto della famiglia Tiepolo / Portrait of the Tiepolo Family, 1801
oil on canvas, 203 x 163 cm
signed and dated on the lower left: “MENAGEOT PINXIT 1801”
Ferrara, Art Collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, in deposit at the National Art Gallery of Ferrara
In 1793 numerous French artists, in disagreement with the revolutionary choice, departed from Rome due to the growing political tension that culminated with the assassination of Hugo de Bassville, diplomat of the French Republic to the Papal State and protector of the Roman Jacobins, and in response to the fire of Palazzo Mancini, seat of the Accademia di Francia. Among the exiles who did not return to the homeland were François-Xavier Fabre and Jean-Baptiste-Frédéric Desmarais who settled in Florence, while Françoise-Guillaume Ménageot, director of the Accademia since 1787, took refuge in Vicenza where other illustrious emigrants resided, such as Marquis Vibraye, ambassador of Louis XVI in Denmark, Calonne and Talleyrand.
Among the animators of the intellectual salon of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, and in close and familiar relationships with the ambassador of the King, Cardinal de Bernis, in the pontifical capital, Ménageot quickly found protection in the environment of Vicenza, guest of Count Camillo Valle, an aristocratic amateur painter he met during his years in Rome.
At the end of his long stay in Vicenza, interrupted only in 1797 on the occasion of the appointment as professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, can be placed the Portrait of the Tiepolo Family, dated 1801, and therefore executed just prior to the definitive transfer of Mènageot to Paris, where he participated in the assembly of professors of the National schools of painting and sculpture on 11 May of the same year. The noble family Tiepolo, involved in the silk trade, was portrayed in a studied Neoclassical composition in which the figures are shown in their simple and everyday family dimension, the sweetness of the glances and gestures gives the scene an atmosphere of domestic serenity. From the brown background emerge, in elegant composition, the white and mauve coloured garments of the children and the pure white dress of the young noblewoman, perhaps identifiable as Elena Tiepolo Milan Massari, refined and cultured protectress of artists, who became the fulcrum of the work thanks to the chromatic vibrancy of her red silk stole.
The references of this extraordinary portrait, intimate and delicate, can be retraced in the painting of Angelica Kauffmann, whom the painter had paid tribute in two of his most famous historical paintings of, The Death of Leonardo da Vinci in the Arms of Francis I (Amboise, Musee de l’Hôtel de Ville) and Cleopatra Paying her Last Respects to Anthony (Angers, Musée des Beaux-Arts), presented at the Salon respectively in 1781 and in 1785. As a result of his transfer to Vicenza, the painter renewed his own artistic language thanks to direct contact with the works of the great Venetian tradition, reaching its most original outcome with The Rest of the Holy Family on the Flight into Egypt (1796) for the sanctuary of Monte Berico, in which a skilful balance are interwoven instances of Roman Neoclassical culture with Venetian colourism.