Tiberio Tinelli was born in Venice in 1586. He studied initially with Giovanni Contarini (c.1549-1604), Titian's closest follower, and then with Leandro Bassano (1557-1620), nephew of the more famous painter Jacopo da Ponte, called Bassano. He was thus thoroughly trained in the language of late-Renaissance painting in Venice, and he became the preferred portraitist of the nobility as well as of intellectuals and writers in Venice. He was praised by contemporary critics, such as Carlo Ridolfi and Marco Boschini, for his ability to rival nature, and for "adding grace and greater nobility to similitude" (Ridolfi).
He was highly valued as well both by foreign rulers, such as Carlo I Duke of Mantua and Leopoldo de' Medici, and by foreign virtuosi such as the collectors Basil Fielding and Paolo del Sera. A singular mark of the esteem in which Tinelli was then held was demonstrated by del Sera, who in his will left Tinelli's Portrait of Giulio Strozzi (Uffizi, Florence) to his patron, the great connoisseur Leopoldo de Medici. According to his early biographers, Tinelli was also appreciated and praised by such artists as Guido Reni and Pietro da Cortona. In 1630, Tinelli was knighted by Louis XIII, who tried without success to bring the artist to France as a court portraitist.
Tinelli wrought a profound change in the art of Venetian portraiture. Though nothing is known of his shop or his school, his particular vision of the informal aristocratic portrait became the dominant language of north-Italian artists through the time of Vittore Ghislandi. It was seriously challenged only by the heroic idealization that was Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's contribution to portraiture. Tinelli died in Venice in 1638. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Ridolfi, Carlo. Le meraviglie dell'arte. (Venice, 1656). Edited by Detlev von Hadeln. Rome, 1964: 277-289.
Boschini, Marco. La carta del navegar pitoresco. (Venice, 1660). Edited by Anna Pallucchini. Venice, 1966: 493-500.
Palluccini, Rodolfo. La pittura veneziana del Seicento. 2 vols. Venice, 1981: 1:106-108.
Monticelli, Marina. In La Pittura in Italia: il Seicento. Edited by Mina Gregori and Erich Schleier. 2 vols. Rev. ed. Milan, 1989: 2:901.
De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 317.