Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, Venice 1727 - 1804 Venice)
Punchinello with the Ostriches, ca. 1800
Signed and numbered 811
Pen in brown ink and wash over black chalk on white laid paper
Design: 11 11/16 x 16 5/16 in. (29.6 x 41.5 cm)
Sheet: 14 x 18 5/8 in. (35.5 x 47.3 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1955
Late in his life Domenico Tiepolo drew over one hundred ink and wash drawings that invent and illustrate the misadventures of Punchinello. Oberlin's drawing is one of several in the series that show the much-loved low-life character interacting with animals, in this case an ungainly ostrich.
Born on the streets of Naples, Punchinello became a standard character in the largely improvisational commedia dell'arte by the early seventeenth century. His obligatory physical features included a humpback, round belly, long beaklike nose (a reference to his descent from a chicken or turkey), tall conical hat, and baggy white clothes. Although he appeared in an endless array of different roles--from lascivious servant to Turkish pasha--he always remained Punchinello, a coarse, lecherous, and gluttonous trickster.2 Punchinellos were also ubiquitous on eighteenth-century Venetian streets and squares, hawking wares, appearing in puppet shows, and cavorting in the annual Carnival.
The Punchinello character intrigued the artistic Tiepolos for decades: he appears in Giambattista's drawings of the 1730s and '50s 3 and two of his etchings in the Scherzi di Fantasia;4 and in Domenico's paintings and drawings of contemporary life (for example, A Dance in the Country, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and The Minuet, Paris, Musée du Louvre, both of the mid-1750s); as well as in his frescoes for the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo (now at Ca' Rezzonico, Venice).5
Sometime around 1800 Domenico returned to the subject with gusto, and created the 104 wash drawings for the Divertimento per li ragazzi (Entertainment for Children).6 This masterful series presents a multitude of Punchinellos in a loosely structured tale of Everyman, which begins with the hatching of Punchinello's father from a huge turkey egg, and ends with an apparition of Punchinello's skeleton rising from the grave. The order of the drawings has been much studied, with some authors proposing a roughly chronological order, and others grouping the drawing by subject.7 The Oberlin drawing, number 81 in the series, follows several drawings in which Punchinello interacts with camels, donkeys, monkeys, and cattle. Byam Shaw classifies it along with drawings illustrating "His Adventures in Strange Countries," while Vetrocq classifies it among the "Scenes of Childhood and Family Life."8
In the Oberlin sheet Punchinello closely examines the wing and belly of a large ostrich strutting across the center of the scene. Punchinello perhaps compares himself (descended from a fowl) with this awkward bird, or contemplates some unknown future action of humorous consequence. A group of wealthy, somewhat vacuous onlookers dressed in sixteenth-century costume watch the interaction from beyond the balustrade. Behind them is a statue of Ganymede the Fair, who, with his eagle, offers a high-art counterpart to Punchinello the Ugly, with his earthbound ostrich and his roots in popular culture.9 The intended location of this scene--park, circus, or exotic land--and its meaning are still unknown.
Noting that "nothing could illustrate better the promiscuous use of pictorial models in Domenico's work," Byam Shaw has published several sources for the Oberlin drawing.10 The large ostrich is based on the ostrich depicted in Giambattista's Africa fresco in the staircase in the Residenz, Würzburg, or a related drawing; both fresco and drawing were done about 1752-53.11 The ostrich and chick to the left relate to a pen and wash drawing by Domenico (Paris, Fondation Custodia) and to his earlier chalk study (Stuttgart, Graphische Sammlung der Staatsgalerie, Sammlung Schloss), which is itself based on an etching by Stefano della Bella.12
The spectators derive either from Giambattista's frescoes for the Villa Contarini alla Mira (1749/50; now in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris) or from Domenico's drawing of the same (collection Sir Brinsley Ford).13 The largely obscured statue at the far left comes from a drawing by Domenico in the Lehman Collection, New York,14 while the Ganymede is based on a drawing by Domenico in the Beauchamp Album.15
The Oberlin drawing demonstrates Domenico's distinctive use of wash. He painted the background with a soft-edged, atmospheric, wet-in-wet wash in pale brown tones. Once the background had dried, he created the richly varied textures (note especially the feathers and foliage) by controlled placement of drops, dribbles, and strokes.
As a group, the Divertimenti drawings are a nostalgic celebration of what must have been for Domenico a pleasurable lifestyle. By 1800, however, Neoclassical style had replaced the taste for the Baroque work of the Tiepolos, and the French had assumed control of the Venetian Republic. Perhaps Domenico drew these Punchinellos for the purpose suggested in the series title, to divert himself and the children who lived near the villa at Zianigo, where he spent his waning years.
J. S. Wilker
Born in Venice on 30 August 1727, Giovanni Domenico Maria Antonio Tiepolo was the fifth child and oldest surviving son of the prodigious Baroque painter Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo (1696-1770). Domenico trained in the Tiepolo workshop during the 1740s, where he drew copies of drawings and paintings by his father and others, and served as assistant on major commissions of the shop. His first independent work was a series of twenty-four canvases for the Oratory of the Crucifixion of San Polo, Venice (1747-49). During these years, he also developed as a master etcher (seem AMAM invs. 41.12 and 72.96).
From 1750-53 Domenico, along with his brother Lorenzo (1736-1772), helped his father complete commissioned frescoes in Würzburg at the Residenz of the prince-bishop Carl Philipp van Greiffenclau. In this project his work blended almost imperceptibly with that of his father, but he also produced independent canvases for private patrons and many drawings. Domenico also created a well-known series of etchings imaginatively illustrating the Flight into Egypt (see AMAM 72.96). In 1753 the three Tiepolos returned to Venice. Domenico continued to collaborate with his father, and emerged as the family specialist in monochrome frescoes and genre painting. Domenico's appreciation of the "theater" of contemporary Venetian life is revealed in frescoes in buildings in and around Venice (for example, at the Villa Valmarana ai Nani, outside Vicenza, and at the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo, near Mirano), and in several easel paintings of this period.
In 1762 Giambattista was called to Spain to work for Charles III, again accompanied by and relying heavily on his sons. Returning to Venice after his father's death in 1770, Domenico continued to paint, make prints, and draw prolifically. The late drawings were executed in several lengthy series, or variations on a theme, devoted to religious, mythological and exotic subjects; Venetian contemporary life; and Punchinello, the artist's final and crowning achievement.
Domenico died of fever in Venice on 4 March 1804.
Byam Shaw, James. The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo. London, 1962.
Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman. Exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996.
Wolk-Simon, Linda. Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997.
Sale London (Sotheby's), 6 July 1920, in lot 41 (complete Divertimenti set of 104 drawings; £650 to Colnaghi)
With P. & D. Colnaghi, London
Collection Richard Owen, Paris (1920-21)
Collection Countess Wachtmeister, Paris
Sale London (Sotheby's), 15 December 1954, lot 108 (four from set sold at this sale: two for £300, and two, including lot 108, for £700)
With Richard Zinser, New York, from whom purchased in 1955
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1921 (complete Divertimenti set). No cat.
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1956. Drawings and Watercolors from the Oberlin Collection. 11 March - 1 April. No cat.
New York, M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., 1959. Great Master Drawings of Seven Centuries >. 13 October - 7 November. Cat. no. 42.
Minneapolis, University Gallery, University of Minnesota, 1961. The Eighteenth Century. 24 January - 7 March. Cat. no. 90.
Kenwood, London County Council, 1962. An American University Collection: Works of Art from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio. 3 May - 30 October. Cat. no. 51.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
Birmingham, Ala., Museum of Art, 1978. The Tiepolos: Painters to Princes and Prelates. 8 January - 19 February (also shown at Springfield, Mass., Museum of Fine Arts). Cat. no. 120.
Bloomington, Indiana University Art Museum, 1979. Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings. 2 September - 6 October (also shown at Stanford University Museum of Art). Cat. no. 25.
Bloomington, Indiana University Art Museum, 1996. Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman. 15 January - 9 March (also shown at Udine, Castello di Udine). Cat. no. 174.
Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Prints by the Two Tiepolos: Giambattista and Giandomenico. Exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1938, pp. 46-49.
Francis, H. S. "Six Drawings from the Life of Pulcinella [sic] by the Younger Tiepolo." Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletin 26 (1939), pp. 46-49.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 72; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 253.
Byam Shaw, James. The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo. London, 1962, cat. no. 93, mentioned pp. 53, 58 n. 1.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, p. 70, fig. 139.
Vetrocq, Marcia E. Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings. Exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1979, pp. 29, 86-87, cat. no. 25, ill.
Gealt, Adelheid M. "The Courtship, Marriage and Other Exploits of Punchinello." ARTnews 78, no. 9 (November 1979), p. 134, ill. p. 135.
Corsaro, Frank. The Love for Three Oranges: The Glyndebourne Version. New York, 1984, pp. 55-57.
Gealt, Adelheid. Domenico Tiepolo, The Punchinello Drawings. New York, 1986, pp. 90-91, cat. no. 33.
Pedrocco, Filippo. Disegni di Giandomenico Tiepolo. Milan, 1990, p. 90, pl. 37.
Gealt, Adelheid, and George Knox. Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman. Exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996, p. 235, no. 174.
The drawing is executed with line and wash in brown ink, probably bister, on heavy laid,antique white paper. A second, red-orange color used on the Punchinello masks at the right. The trembling line, characteristic of Domenico, is applied with a pen; in some architectural elements, he appears to have used a straightedge. The freely sketched underdrawing, which in places has little to do with the final surface image, is in black chalk. The watermark is Graduated Triple Crescents, present in many of the Punchinello drawings.16 The sheet is in good, fresh condition, with moderate surface soiling and a few foxmarks in the margins.
1. Signed in brown ink lower left: Domo Tiepolo f; numbered in modern purple pencil upper left: 81
2. See Marcia E. Vetrocq, "Domenico Tiepolo and the Figure of Punchinello," in Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1979), pp. 19-33.
3. See George Knox, "The Punchinello Drawings of Giambattista Tiepolo," in Interpretazioni veneziane: studi di storia dell'arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro, ed. David Rosand (Venice, 1984), pp. 439-46.
4. A. Baudi de Vesme, Le Peintre-graveur italien (Milan, 1906), nos. 21 and 29.
5. On the frescoes, see Filippo Pedrocco, Giandomenico Tiepolo a Zianigo (Villorba, 1988). For a review of earlier Venetian depictions of Punchinello, see Marcia E. Vetrocq, "Domenico Tiepolo and the Figure of Punchinello," in Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1979), pp. 25-28.
6. On the series, see James Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo (London, 1962), chapter 6; Marcia E. Vetrocq, Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1979); Adelheid Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo, The Punchinello Drawings (New York, 1986); and Adelheid Gealt and George Knox, Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996), pp. 56-58, 216-37. A date of around 1800 is generally accepted for the series. James Byam Shaw (op. cit., pp. 57-58) comes to this conclusion on the basis of compositional elements and costume. The discovery of a date of 1797 on a wall in the Punchinello room at the villa at Zianaga also supports a date of about 1800 for the drawings; see Adriana Mariuz, in Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996), p. 35.
7. The drawings were initially numbered in ink by the artist in the upper left-hand corner, but many of these numbers have been abraded and replaced with numbers in modern pencil, as is the case in the Oberlin drawing. A further difficulty in ordering the set is the dispersal of the drawings. A photographed set in the collection of Sir Brinsley Ford, London, which has numbers on the back, has been used to establish an order that is perhaps the closest to Domenico's intent; see Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996), p. 216, and the checklist on pp. 244-47.
11. The painting, in which the ostrich is depicted along with elephants, monkeys, camels, and pelicans, is reproduced in Max H. Freeden and Carl Lamb, Das Meisterwerk des Giovanni Battista Tiepolo: Die Fresken der Würzberger Residenz (München, 1956), pp. 93, 95. The drawing is reproduced in Zeichnungen von Giambattista, Domenico und Lorenzo Tiepolo (exh. cat., Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1970), pl. 88.
12. Both drawings are reproduced in Domenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman (exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1996), the first on p. 235 (under cat. no. 174), and the second on p. 186, cat. no. 116. For della Bella's etching, The Ostrich Hunt, see Phyllis Dearborn Massar, Stefano della Bella: Catalogue raisonné by Alessandre de Vesme (New York, 1971), cat. no. 732.
13. The fresco is reproduced in Massimo Gemin and Filippo Pedrocco, Giambattista Tiepolo: I dipinti, opera completa (Venice, 1993), cat. nos. 362-63. On the drawings see James Byam Shaw, "Two Drawings by Domenico Tiepolo, and a note on the date of the Frescoes at the Villa Contarini-Pisani," The Burlington Magazine 102 (December 1960), pp. 529-30.
14. James Byam Shaw and George Knox, The Lehman Collection. Vol. 6, Italian Eighteenth-Century Drawings (New York and Princeton, 1987), pl. 135.
15. Sale the earl of Beauchamp Album, London (Christie's), 15 June 1965, lot 143.
16. Reproduced in Jacob Bean and Felice Staemplfe, Drawings from New York Collections. Vol. 3: The Eighteenth Century in Italy (Greenwich, Conn., 1971), fig. 16 in Watermarks, unpaginated. See also Edward Heawood, Watermarks mainly of the 17th and 18th Centuries (London, 1950), no. 867 (slightly smaller).