Upon their discovery of Tiepolo’s Candaules and Gyges ceiling, Dr. Brightman begins to lecture Nick: “As Russell Gwinnett said, one is a little reminded of Iphigenia in the Villa Valmarana, or the Mars and Venus there. The usual consummate skill in handling aerial perspectives. The wife of Candaules—Gautier calls her Nyssia, but I suspect the name invented by him—is obviously the same model as Pharoah’s daughter in Moses saved from the water at Edinburgh, also the lady in all the Antony and Cleopatra sequences, such as those at the Labia Palace, which I was once lucky enough to see.” [TK 83/77]
Here Powell is using his thorough knowledge of art history to inform our vision of his imaginary Tiepolo (Candaules and Gyges) by likening it to Teipolo’s well-known real paintings. We have already inspected The Sacrifice of Iphigenia at Villa Valmarana. In the Guest House, or Foresteria, of that splendid villa near Vicenza are frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s son, Giovanni Domenico. The sole painting there by the father is the one Dr. Brightman cites, known as Mars, Venus and Amor.
Powell’s cleverness even allows us to form an image of Candaules’ wife, by having Dr. Brightman identify her as the same model Tiepolo used for the real paintings of Pharoah’s daughter and of Cleopatra.
Pharoah’s daughter appears in a painting known as The Finding of Moses, now in the National Gallery of Scotland. And as Dr. Brightman insists, she is a ringer for the Cleopatra meeting Antony, part of his Antony and Cleopatra series in the Palazzo Labia in Venice.
Her face is easier to study in a preparatory sketch for this fresco, now in the National Museum of Scotland. Soon, in Powell’s imagination, she will be doffing her clothes to pose as King Candaules’ queen.