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PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION GIOVANNI DOMENICO TIEPOLO (VENICE 1727-1804)

The apparition of the skeleton of Punchinello before his tomb

Details
GIOVANNI DOMENICO TIEPOLO (VENICE 1727-1804)
The apparition of the skeleton of Punchinello before his tomb
numbered ‘104’ (upper left) and signed ‘Do: Tiepolo/ f.’ (lower right)
black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, brown ink framing lines, watermark monogram beginning with ‘SO’
34.9 x 47 cm (13 ³/₄ x 18 ¹/₂ in.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 6 July 1920, part of lot 41 (£610 to Colnaghi).
with Colnaghi, London, by whom sold, January 1921, to
Richard Owen, Paris, by whom broken up and sold individually through Matthiesen, 24 March 1937.
Léon Suzor, Paris; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 19 March 1965, lot 71.
Georges Bernier, Paris.
with Eugene V. Thaw & Co., New York.
Jakob M. and Alice M. Kaplan (1903-1995), New York (L. 3061), acquired from the above, January 1966.
with Eugene V. Thaw & Co., New York.
Private collection.
Literature
J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, London, 1962, p. 52, n. 3.
A. Mariuz, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Venice, [1971], p. 87, n. 107.
P.P. Fehl, ‘Farewell to Jokes: The Last Capricci of Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and the Tradition of Irony in Venetian Painting’, in Critical Inquiry, V, no. 4, Summer 1978-1979, Chicago, pp. 787, fig. 22.
M.E. Vetrocq, Domenico Tiepolo’s Punchinello Drawings, exhib. cat., Bloomington, Indiana University Art Museum, and Stanford, Stanford University Museum of Art, 1979-1980, no. S23, ill.
L. Bantel, The Alice M. Kaplan Collection, New York, 1981, no. 44, ill.
G. Knox, ‘Domenico Tiepolo’s Punchinello Drawings: Satire, or Labor of Love?’, in Satire in the Eighteenth Century, New York and London, 1983, pp. 130, 146
A.M. Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo. The Punchinello Drawings, New York, 1986, no. 77, ill. [French edition: Gian Domenico Tiepolo. Dessins de Polichinelle, Arcueil, 1986].
G. Knox in Giandomenico Tiepolo. Maestria e gioco. Disegni dal mondo, exhib. cat., Udine, Castello di Udine, and Bloomington, Indiana University Art Museum, 1996-1997, p. 98, ill., p. 247, no. 104.
S. Bostock, The Pictorial Wit of Domenico Tiepolo, I, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Warwick, 2009, no. 103, ill.
G. Agamben, Pulcinella ovvero divertimento per li regazzi, Rome, 2015, no. 28, pp. 82-83, ill.
Exhibition
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Dessins de G.D. Tiepolo, 1921 (without catalogue).
Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Chefs-d’œuvre des collections parisiennes, 1950, no. 152, ill.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Pierpont Morgan Library, Drawings from New York Collections, III, 1971, no. 284, ill.
Southampton, Parrish Art Museum, Commedia dell’Arte, 1971 (without catalogue).

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Stijn Alsteens International Head of Department
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展品专文

Building on the legacy of his father Giovanni Battista, one of the great painters of the 18th Century, Domenico Tiepolo forged a successful career of his own, excelling at painting as well as at etching and drawing. As the prime assistant to his father, he worked on large decorative schemes, including those in Würzburg and Spain, and reproduced his father’s works in prints. 
 
However, Domenico also developed his own voice, which only grew stronger after his father’s death in 1770. He added lighter, wittier, more fanciful notes to his father’s grand repertoire of religious, mythological and allegorical compositions. Whilst some of his themes were religious or mythological in nature, others were taken from everyday life and popular culture. Many were executed in pen and ink, rather than in oil, and were often produced in series, brilliantly showing off Domenico’s inventiveness. His crowning achievement, and what can be called his swansong, are the 104 drawings, preceded by a title page, that make up a series titled ‘Divertimento per li regazzi’ (entertainment for children), also known as the ‘Punchinello series’. The series is characterised by its narrative exuberance and broad emotional range, though the drawings retain a rich stylistic coherence. Different shades of brown wash barely contain the fluid penwork, which is executed over a very summary underdrawing in black chalk, displaying a brilliant use of the white paper to create highlights. 
 
The Divertimento is the culmination of Domenico’s drawings and paintings in which he presents his playful vision of life more fully. Inspired by one of the main characters of the commedia dell’arte, Domenico chose to depict the typically malicious and boorish Pulcinella (to use his common Italian name) using a more good-natured interpretation. The artist first painted the subject on large scale frescoes decorating his villa at Zianigo on the mainland (now at the Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice). However, during the final years of his career when the Venetian Republic was conquered by Napoleon, Domenico once again turned to the subject of Punchinello and his extended family for the last, and perhaps the greatest of his series of drawings, to capture ‘the culture of that vanished world that Domenico, with nostalgia and humour, mythologized and immortalized in the Divertimento’ (L. Wolk Simon, Domenico Tiepolo. Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, p. 67). 
 
While the mood of the individual drawings within the series varies considerably, and the majority are joyful, several of the darker scenes remind us that Domenico Tiepolo was a contemporary of Francisco de Goya. That is certainly the case for the drawing offered here, on which the autograph number at upper left indicates it is the ultimate scene of the Divertimento’s narrative sequence. Here, a skeleton Punchinello rises from the grave that has been dug for him, and startles the group of other Punchinellos who have presumably gathered to mourn his death. His resurrection is at the same time the end of his story and the beginning of a new one, under the eternal sign of human folly. 
 
Domenico’s series was not rediscovered until 1920, when it was sold as an unbound series at Sotheby’s in London. Shortly afterwards, Richard Owen, a British dealer based in Paris, started dismembering the ensemble, which was seen for the last time in full at an exhibition at the École des Beaux- Arts in 1921. The largest groups ended up in the Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Until the recent sales of nine drawings on 3 December 2019 and 29 July 2020 at Christie’s, London, the largest group still together in private hands were the twelve sheets in the collection of the late Sir Brinsley Ford. Well represented in American public and private collections, drawings from the series are nearly absent from European museums, despite its status as the ‘last masterpiece of Venetian art’ (Pierre Rosenberg in the French edition of Gealt, op. cit., 1986, p. 9).