Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo


Produced at the end of Domenico Tiepolo’s life, this sheet belonged to a sequence, now dispersed, of 104 drawings illustrating the life of Punchinello, a commedia dell’arte character who in Domenico Tiepolo’s series came to represent everyman. This sheet, the ninety-ninth in the series, depicts the death of Punchinello, whose recumbent figure is based upon a caricature by the artist’s father that is exhibited nearby. Both the doctor taking Punchinello’s pulse and the one seated nearby have asses’ ears, emblematic of foolishness.

Giovanni Domenico
Tiepolo Italian; 1727–1804
The Last Illness of Punchinello, ca. 1797–1804
Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk


In the last years of his life, Domenico Tiepolo produced a masterful series of 104 drawings that he entitled The Divertimento Per Li Regazzi, (Entertainment for Children).

This was a somewhat falsely naive title, for the series is a mock epic of the life and times of Punchinello, the commedia dell'arte figure, and it is replete with artistic quotations, knowing jokes, and a lightly sarcastic commentary on Venetian life. In Punchinello's Last Illness, for example, Punchinello lies in bed, tended to by foolish doctors who have little chance of helping him. Some of the bystanders grieve, but others seem to console the doctors more than the dying man himself. A prominent chamber pot likewise undermines the gravity of the moment. As in all drawings from the series Tiepolo's multiple layers of rich, fluid wash elaborate the scene and set off bright pools of light.

There are two drawings from the Punchinello series in the Thaw Collection, which contains in total 18 sheets by Gion. Battista and Domenico Tiepolo. The prone figure of the dying Punchinello with his prominent belly beneath the bedsheet echoes both Gion. Battista's own Drunken Punchinello and his caricature of a sleeping man, which are likewise included in the exhibition.