Famed as a decorator, Tiepolo made this small sketch as his model for a vast ceiling fresco in the throne room of the Royal Palace of Madrid, a project that was the climax of his illustrious career. Taking its cue from the room's function, Tiepolo's design has as its central feature the allegorical figure of Spain enthroned and flanked by Herculean statues. Just above is the trumpeting figure of Fame. The borders are packed with lively figures representing the provinces of Spain and the continents where she held colonies. At the upper left, Christopher Columbus stands with outstretched arms on the deck of his ship. Nearby are Neptune, god of the sea, who guides the expedition, and an American Indian in a feathered headdress.
One must think of this as a design to be seen overhead in a large, high-ceilinged room. With his legendary facility, Tiepolo resolved the difficulties of foreshortening forms seen from sharply below, of deploying the figures in coherent groups, and, in turn, incorporating the groups into an effective overall design. The result is an airy sweep that seems to open directly to the heavens with all its buoyant and extravagant population paying homage to Spain.
Possibly by inheritance from the artist to a niece who married Pagliano, perhaps the painter Eleuterio Pagliano [1826-1903]; possibly purchased in Venice by Edward Cheney [1803-1884], London, after 1860 at Badger Hall, Shropshire; possibly by inheritance to his brother-in-law, Colonel Alfred Capel-Cure [1826-1896]; by inheritance to his nephew, Francis Capel-Cure [1854-1933], Badger Hall, Shropshire. (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence); purchased 26 June 1935 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.
- The European Vision of America, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Cleveland Museum of Art; Grand Palais, Paris, 1975-1977, no. 136, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain (shown in Washington only, 1975-1976).
- Goya and the Art of His Time, Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, 1982-1983, no. I.39 (cat. by Edward J. Sullivan).
- International Specialized Exhibition "Christopher Columbus: Ships and the Sea", Italian Pavilion, Ente Colombo '92, Genova, 1992, not in cat.
- Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1993, no. 55, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1993-1994.
- The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice, 1994-1995, no. 128 (London and Washington), no. 62 (Venice), repro.
- Giambattista Tiepolo: 1696 - 1996, Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996-1997, no. 53, repro., as The Wealth and Benefits of the Spanish Monarchy (shown only in New York).
- Giambattista Tiepolo 1696-1770, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, 1998-1999, no. 76, repro., as Le Monde rend hommage à l'Espagne.
- Spain in the Age of Exploration, 1492-1819, Seattle Art Museum; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, 2004-2005, unnumbered catalogue, pl. 93 (shown only in Seattle).
- Sack, Eduard. Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo. Ihr Leben und Ihre Werke. Hamburg, 1910: 139, 223.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 146, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Gerstenberg, Kurt. "Tiepolos Weltbild in Würzburg und Madrid." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 15 (1952): 152, 154, fig. 10.
- Morassi, Antonio. G. B. Tiepolo. His Life and Work. London, 1955: 35, fig. 79.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 251, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Knox, George. Catalogue of the Tiepolo Drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 1960: 38, n. 13, 91.
- Pallucchini 1960, 97, fig. 243.
- Knox, George. "The Orloff Album of Tiepolo Drawings." The Burlington Magazine 103 (June 1961): 274.
- Morassi, Antonio. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962: 67.
- Knox, George. "Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo at Princeton." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 23 (1964): 25.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 127, as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 113, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Pallucchini, Anna. L'opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 1968: 130-131, no. 279a, repro.
- Pallucchini, Anna. "Aggiunte e precisazioni al catalogo delle opere del Tiepolo." In Atti del Congresso internatzionale di studi sul Tiepolo. Milan, 1971: 101-103.
- Rizzi, Aldo. Mostra del Tiepolo. Dipinti. Exh. cat. Villa Manin di Passariano, Udine. Milan, 1971: 155, fig. 73.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 198.
- Fahy, Everett, and Francis John Bagott Watson. The Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5: Paintings, drawings, sculpture. New York, 1973: 244-246, fig. 13.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XVI-XVIII Century. London, 1973: 150-152, fig. 289.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 338, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:445-448, II:pl. 323, as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Knox, George. Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings. 2 vols. Oxford, 1980: 1:193, 242.
- Jones, Leslie. "Peace, Prosperity and Politics in Tiepolo's 'Glory of the Spanish Monarchy'." Apollo 114 (1981): 226-227, fig. 11.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 346, no. 474, color repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 388, repro., as The World Pays Homage to Spain.
- Levey, Michael. Giambattista Tiepolo. His Life and Art. New Haven and London, 1986: 255-257, 262, fig. 257.
- Urrea, Jesus. "Una famiglia di pittori veneziana in Spagna: i Tiepolo." In Venezia e la Spagna. Milan, 1988: 233.
- Checa, Fernando. "Los Frescos del Palacio Real Nuevo de Madrid y el fin del lenguaje alegórico." Archivio Español de Arte 65 (1992): 165.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 116, repro.
- Brown, Beverly Louise. Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch. Exh. cat. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. Milan and New York, 1993: 304-309, no. 55, color repro.
- Gemin, Massimo, and Filippo Pedrocco. Giambattista Tiepolo. Venice, 1993: 192, 200, 486, no. 516a, repro.
- Longyear, Teresa. "Giambattista Tiepolo: The Energetic and Fluent Brush." In B. L. Brown. Giambattista Tiepolo: Master of the Oil Sketch. Exh. cat. Kimbell Art Mus., Ft. Worth. Milan and New York, 1993: 65, 67-69, 76, 78, repro., figs. 43,44,50, 53-54.
- The Glory of Venice. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice; Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, 1994-1995: 503, no. 128, color pl. 212.
- 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: 272-285, color repro. 277.
- Cheney, Liana de Girolami. "Honor/Honoring." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, ed. Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:408.
- Pedrocco, Filippo. Giambattista Tiepolo. Milan, 2002: no. 277/1.a, repro.
The support is a tightly woven plain-weave fabric of rather coarse texture with thick threads. The primary ground is a red layer that covers the entire surface of the fabric. A secondary yellow layer was applied over the center of the surface, leaving a border approximately 5 cm wide around the edge. Air-path x-ray fluorescence and analysis of cross-sections shows that the red layer consists of red and yellow iron oxides. The yellow layer is in fact two layers of different colored pigments, and appears to be lighter in color under the figures; these yellow layers are a mixture of iron-oxide-based pigments and lead white.
Infrared reflectography revealed loose and infrequent underdrawing with a brush; black and brown paint were used. The paint was applied as a slightly stiff paste that retained the texture of brushstrokes. A quick, vibrant scumbling of the paint is visible, particularly in the sky, and the thick handling of the clouds contrasts with the thinly painted, generally dark areas such as the figures around the edge of the composition. Throughout all stages of work, the artist employed a sketching-in process and scumbling techniques, until fine details and finishing touches were added with a fluid dark paint. X-radiographs reveal minor compositional changes by the artist, most importantly a thick layer of clouds under the greenish gray balustrade on the sides in the lower half of the composition and a rainbow above the figure of Faith. Scientific analysis revealed a limited palette consisting of lead white, vermilion, red and yellow iron earths, bone black, brown umber, ultramarine, terre verte, and very sparing amounts of Prussian blue.
Although the paint is generally secure, there are many small losses and areas of abrasion throughout, as well as several small holes. In 1939 the painting was relined, discolored varnish was removed, and the painting was restored by Stephen Pichetto. In 1987-1990 Teresa Longyear removed discolored varnish and restored the painting.