The frescoes

The frescoes painted by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, father and son, are the gems of Villa Valmarana ai Nani.

Each of the two Venetian artists mainly painted only one building of the Villa, although sometimes they have worked together.

Appointed by Giustino Valmarana, Giambattista (the father) painted the spaces inside the Palazzina, depicting episodes drawn from the epics that his client loved. Giandomenico (the son) frescoed the spaces inside the Foresteria, representing subjects suggested by his fantasy, except for the Olympian Gods Room which was painted by his father.


At the height of his artistic maturity, Giambattista Tiepolo frescoed the rooms inside the Palazzina.

As subjects the Venetian painter chose, on Giustino Valmarana's suggestion, scenes taken from the celebrated epics of the past: “Iphigenia in Aulis”, “Iliad”, “Aeneid”, “The Frenzy of Orlando” (or, literally translated from Italian, “Furious Orlando”), “Jerusalem Delivered”. When possible, Giambattista depicted romantic episodes.


Iphigenia Hall

In this magnificent hallway, we can admire the sacrifice of Iphigenia, depicted using a three-dimensional technique.

Calchas the seer, in the centre, is going to kill Iphigenia, the young daughter of Agamemnon. All the bystanders look up to the sky, because two cherubs upon a vaporous cloud are bringing a doe to be sacrificed instead of the girl. On the right, Agamemnon covers his face not to watch the sacrifice of Iphigenia unfold.

On one side of the ceiling the goddess Diana, with her nymphs, is sending the saving doe. On the other side Aeolus, god and keeper of the winds, exhales so that the Greek fleet can lift their anchor and leave: we can understand that the wind is blowing because flags and standards are flying.

On the other wall, food and weapons are being prepared for the Achaean expedition to Troy. There is a character standing out in this scene, a deeply-touched man who is looking at the altar of sacrifice: probably Giustino Valmarana. A dog is greeting another character, perhaps Ulysses.

Monochrome representations of the four most important rivers of the world (as they were known in the 18th century) are depicted on the overdoors.


Iliad Room

Briseis, one of Achilles' slaves, is forcibly taken from her tent to be brought to Agamemnon, her new master. The Achaean king is waiting for her in a statuesque pose, as a tyrant.

Achilles, furious because of the abduction of his beloved concubine, lashes out against Agamemnon. But Minerva, goddess of war and wisdom, descends from the sky and stops the hero by seizing his hair. Minerva is also depicted on the ceiling.

Achilles is weeping, saddened by loss and dishonour. He is consoled by his mother Thetis, goddess of the sea, who emerges from the waves accompanied by a Nereid.

The countryside panorama represented on the last wall is attributed to Giandomenico Tiepolo.


Raging Roland Room

Angelica, princess of Cathay, is tied to a rock by pirates to be devoured by a whale. Ruggero, a knight riding a hippogryph, descends to save her.
Later, Angelica meets Medoro, a wounded Saracen soldier, and takes care of him. They fall in love but, since they are poor, they must take refuge in a house belonging to two peasants. When leaving the house, they give a ring to the farmers: the ring that was gifted to Angelica by Ruggero, a proof of his love for her. The peasants were painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo.
On the last wall, Angelica carves her name on a tree bark with a strong, intense look of love in her eyes.
On the ceiling, a blindfolded Cupid is driving a chariot among the clouds: an allegory of love and passion which, despite being blind, guides humankind's actions.

“Raging Roland” is the literal translation of “Orlando Furioso”, the title of the epic written by Ludovico Ariosto which inspired this room's frescoes. Actually, at present the title is translated in English as “The Frenzy of Orlando”.


Aeneid Room

Aeneas and his companion Achates go ashore on the African coast after a storm. Venus, goddess of love and mother of Aeneas, appears in front of them, dressed as a huntress, but she leaves immediately after taking Ascanio (son of Aeneas, also called Iulo) with her.

Cupid, god of love, takes possession of Iulo's body who, together with his father, is regally welcomed by Dido, queen of Carthage. Thanks to Cupid, Aeneas and Dido fall in love.

On the other wall Mercury, wing-footed messenger of the gods, appears to Aeneas ordering him to leave Carthage and to continue his journey to Lazio, in Italy.

From Iulo and his wife Lavinia will descend the Gens Iulia, that is, the family of Julius Caesar and Augustus. Hence the Romans descend from the Trojans and have both regal and divine origins.

Vulcan, the god of fire painted in chiaroscuro, is inside his forge. In presence of Venus, he is supervising his blacksmiths who mould the weapons for Aeneas.

The triumph of Venus was depicted on the ceiling, partially destroyed by an aerial bombing in 1944.


Jerusalem Delivered Room

Armida, a sorceress protecting the Saracens, makes the Crusader Rinaldo fall asleep by singing a song. Then, driving a chariot, she takes him to her enchanted dwelling, far away from the war.

In this lush place Armida, using a mirror, casts a spell on Rinaldo: hence the knight falls in love with her and abandons his duties.

Goffredo di Buglione (italian translation of Godfrey of Bouillon), commander of the Christian army, sends two soldiers called Carlo e Ubaldo to bring Rinaldo back to the battlefield. Looking at his own image, reflected on an enchanted shield, the Crusader realizes that he has been bewitched. Finally, Rinaldo leaves the sorceress's dwelling and goes back to the war, while Armida keeps on trying to seduce him.

The allegory on the ceiling depicts the triumph of virtue over vice, light over darkness and good over evil.

“Jerusalem Delivered” is the literal translation of “Gerusalemme Liberata”, the title of the epic written by Torquato Tasso which inspired this room's frescoes. In English, Tasso's masterpiece is also known as “The Liberation of Jerusalem”.