Let’s get this part over with. No, you don’t have any real idea of what the brilliant Venetian painter Giambattista Tiepolo is capable of if you haven’t seen his great decorative schemes in situ. And yes, a great many of the pictures in the show at the Metropolitan are hung too low. Now let’s talk about something interesting.

One of my colleagues declared that seeing a Tiepolo retrospective without the ceilings was like hearing the complete works of Beethoven without the symphonies. The complete works of Mozart without the operas might come closer to the mark, in spirit, at least—which is neither to say that I think Tiepolo is the painterly equal of Mozart nor to imply that the Met’s show of a hundred pictures includes anything like the complete “other” works of the eighteenth-century Venetian virtuoso.[1] But if, at the Met, we...


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