The ballroom of the Palazzo Labia, which has been hailed as one of the most beautiful in Venice, was decorated in the 1740s with frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) and Girolamo Mengozzi-Colonna (1686-1774).
Mengozzi-Colonna, who was the greatest quadraturista (perspective-painter) of his age, painted the trompe l'oeil architecture, while Tiepolo did the story telling. The most famous frescoes illustrate scenes from the lives of Antony and Cleopatra.
Tiepolo included a portrait of himself and his fellow painter the fresco of the Banquet of Cleopatra (they are in the group of spectators on the left). Tiepolo is the character with the wonderful aquiline nose, while Colonna is the figure to his left. Cleopatra may be a depiction of the lady of the house, Maria Labia.
Cleopatra's legendary lavish banquet (during which she is said to have dissolved a pearl in a glass of vinegar and drank the results) would have appealed to the Labia family, Spanish parvenus, who, having bought their way into the Venetian nobility, were keen to impress with extravagant dinners of their own.
As a finale to one banquet, a Labia lord is said to have thrown the forty gold plates, which his guests had been dining off, into the canal, while calmly quipping: "L'abia o non abia, sarò sempre Labia" (Whether I have or not, I will always be Labia).
Blogging about Venice:
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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