The canvas of The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over the vice of Ignorance, by Giambattista Tiepolo, is located in the Sala Tiepolo on the first floor of Ca’ Rezzonico. The work was executed between 1744 and 1745 for Palazzo Barbarigo in Santa Maria del Giglio and purchased by the City of Venice in 1936 to be placed in Ca’ Rezzonico.
The theme of the painting – Nobility and Virtue vanquishing Ignorance who, in falling, drags down a winged spirit with a bat on a leash, the symbol of ignorance – is a recurring subject in Giambattista Tiepolo’s production as it was much appreciated by his noble patrons. The same subject is to be found on the ceiling of Villa Cordellina in Montecchio Maggiore, in a canvas in Pasadena and in a painting in the Museo Civico in Udine. Compared to this latter version, the painting in Ca’ Rezzonico features a splendid page figure in which one recognises the features of Giuseppe Maria Tiepolo, Giambattista’s son.
During the restoration work, the old oxidised varnish and heavy retouching were removed. The numerous ‘colour bursts’ added in previous restorations had, over time, created a kind of white spider’s web on the surface of the painting, and these were also repaired. Moreover, the old stretcher was also replaced by a new one with variable tension joints able to absorb expansion due to changes in temperature or humidity without affecting the painted surface. During the restoration, an afterthought by Giambattista Tiepolo also came to light: a putto had originally been painted beneath the figure of the page, and the traces of his legs and part of the body can now be seen in the clouds.
The restoration of The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over the vice of Ignorance canvas was carried out by Gino Marin and financed by the Venice Foundation and Leo Schachter Art Foundation on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Luce di taglio. Preziosi momenti di una nobildonna veneziana. Una giornata di Faustina Savorgnan Rezzonico’ organised at Ca’ Rezzonico in 2002.