Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Italian, 1696 – 1770
The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, about 1750
Oil on canvas
15 1/4 x 24 1/2 in. (38.7 x 62.2 cm.)
22 7/8 x 32 1/16 x 2 11/16 in. (58.1 x 81.4 x 6.8 cm.) (frame)
Anonymous gift  1975.2

Greek Tragedy
Tiepolo painted this oil sketch as a preparatory study for a series of wall frescoes in the Villa Cornaro in Merlengo, Italy. The large paintings illustrated scenes from the life of Iphigenia, the daughter of the Greek commander Agamemnon. Unfortunately, in the early 1800s, the owner of the villa “censored” the frescoes and they were largely destroyed. According to the ancient playwright Euripides, Agamemnon was ordered to sacrifice his daughter to the goddess Artemis, whom he had offended. Here Iphigenia, awaiting the final blow from the priest’s dagger, swoons before a tomblike altar, while her sorrowful father turns away and buries his face in her and. Awestruck spectators witness the arrival of Artemis, who descends on a cloud. She brings a deer to serve as the offering, sparing the maiden’s life.