Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Apollo leads Beatrix of Burgundy as a bride to Emperor Barbarossa

by Alexandra Tuschka


Tiepolo was a famous fresco painter of the 18th century and was known for his fast painting style. He applied the colors on the walls with quick brush strokes on the fast-drying mortar. In 1750, the Italian was commissioned by Prince-Bishop Karl Phillipp von Geifenclau to decorate the staircase and Emperor's Hall of the Würzburg Residence with ceiling paintings. The program was determined by the client and was dedicated to the history of Würzburg.

The city experienced its first heyday under Emperor Barbarossa. Who would be surprised that the white horse quadriga of the sun god Apollo, also patron of the arts, would attract Beatrix of Burgundy, his second wife, dressed in splendid wedding clothes? In 1156 the two were married. The wedding is depicted on a second fresco. Here, however, the two still have the wedding ceremony before them. Beatrix is not only a human bride, but at the same time represents the personification of the empire; thus the symbolic marriage of the ruler with his empire can be seen.


Tiepolo achieved the extraordinary spatial effect by the massive openwork clouds, by the interlocking of painting and building decoration at the edges, and by the dissolution of forms by letting some persons and clouds project into the space. Strong contrasts and bright colors almost create a parallel world.


As quickly as Tiepolo painted, the quadriga seems to rush over the heads of the viewers. Angels and all kinds of allegorical figures accompany the spectacle. Partly hidden in these figures are the faces of Tiepolo's contemporaries.


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Apollo leads Beatrix of Burgundy as a bride to Emperor Barbarossa

Ceiling fresco, 1750/51, 6.97 x 14.07 m, Imperial Residence in Würzburg