Tiepolo is not a member of that company of artists misunderstood in their own times. Indeed, so fully did he realize the ideals of the eighteenth century, and with such vivacity and imaginative power, that the whole of Europe -- with the possible exception of France -- saw in him the great standardbearer of contemporary painting. It is no coincidence that from about 1736, when he was invited to go to Sweden, until 1760, when he went to Madrid, every Court of the age competed for his works.
It may be said at once that the fact that he was loaded with the highest honours during his lifetime should not be held against him. There is, nowadays, a certain type of criticism which seeks to uphold the risky thesis that an artist's greatness is in inverse relation to his popularity among his contemporaries; but this is a thesis which applies only in a few extraordinary cases and as an exception. Certainly, there was a short period of almost total lack of understanding of painting from about 1870 until about 1910 -- that is, from the Impressionists to the first Cubists -- but no one would think of denying that since then every effort has been made towards a critical revaluation of the period, and that the importance of these artists, and of some living artists, has often been exaggerated, occasionally beyond their due.
As for the old masters, the greatest among them were understood and celebrated in their own life-times, from Giotto to Titian, van Eyck to Rembrandt, and Dürer to Velazquez. Even some of the more original and strange, such as the elder Bruegel, Bosch, Grünewald, El Greco and Goya, were well enough understood by their contemporaries; and so was the much discussed Caravaggio, who received commissions from Princes and Cardinals, and if he was not given more it was because of his demoniac personality, which led to his premature death.
We know, however, that Giambattista Tiepolo's character was mild, good-natured and accommodating. The Swedish Minister, Count Tessin, wrote to his King, who had instructed him to find a suitable painter to decorate the new Royal Palace at Stockholm: 'Tiepolo, dit Tiepoletto, est fait exprès pour nous. . . il est plein d'esprit, accomodant comme un Taraval, un feu infini, un coloris éclatant, et d'une vitesse surprenante. Il fait un tableau en moins de temps qu'il en faut à un autre pour broyer ses couleurs. . .' It is obvious that Tessin, a man of taste and a connoisseur of painting, regarded the Venetian as an ideal artist; and it is a fact that, from the very beginning, Tiepolo embodied in himself all the current artistic ideals of the age, and at the same . . .