Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

Download image: 
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
Punchinellos with an Elephant
ca. 1797-1804
Pen and brown ink with brown wash, over black chalk, on paper.
11 5/8 x 16 3/16 inches (294 x 411 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
IV, 151b

Venetian artist Domenico Tiepolo, and his father Giambattista, elevated the art of drawing to new heights. The artists' layered delicate veils upon veils of ink washes atop bright white paper to create dynamic scenes animated by the syncopation of light and shadow. The Morgan Library & Museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of their work, with more than 300 drawings by the pair. Domenico's talents are exemplified in a series of lively depictions of Punchinello, a clownish character first developed in Italian commedia dell'arte (or popular theatre) of the seventeenth century.
Punchinello held a special significance for the Tiepolo family. Giambattista turned the commedia dell'arte figure into an everyman capable of playing multiple roles. Domenico took the idea even further making Punchinello the primary subject of the frescoes in the family villa, and of the 104 drawings that constituted a series given the falsely naïve title Divertimenti per li ragazzi, or “Amusements for kids.” The drawings-which remained together until the twentieth century-convey a rough narrative of Punchinello's life and picaresque adventures. Yet they can be read like a catalogue of the biblical, mythological, and contemporary-life subjects that Domenico and his father had painted and drawn. Indeed, part of the drawings' charm comes in recognizing how they play off those earlier works. While looking back to the history of art in the grand manner, stretching from the Renaissance to Giambattista's day, Domenico's final series has a sly self-consciousness that is distinctly modern.
Among Domenico's series are depictions of Punchinellos encountering exotic animals such as Punchinellos with an Elephant. This drawing recalls the famous paintings by Pietro Longhi chronicling the sensational visit of a rhinoceros known as Miss Clara to Venice in 1751.


Signed at upper center, in pen and brown ink, "Dom.o [o in superscript above period] Tiepolo f."; numbered on verso, in pen and brown ink, "4".
Watermark: three crescents in descending size.

Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J.P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.
Associated names: 

Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.


Stampfle, Felice, and Jacob Bean. Drawings from New York collections. III: The eighteenth century in Italy. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1971, no. 276, repr.
100 Master drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum. München : Hirmer, 2008, no. 34, repr. [Sibylle Weber am Bach]