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Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

Italian (active Venice, Würzburg, and Madrid) 1727 - 1804

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Giovanni Domenico, or Giandomenico, Tiepolo, the eldest surviving son of the artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, was born in Venice in 1727. With his younger brother Lorenzo he served as stalwart assistant in his father's itinerant workshop. In keeping with the practices of the day he entered his father's studio in early adolescence and learned the essentials of the trade by copying his father's drawings and etchings. By 1747, at age twenty, he had gained sufficient professional status to he awarded a commission for fourteen small paintings depicting the popular subject The Stations of the Cross for the oratory of the Crucifix of the church of San Polo in Venice. From 1750 to 1770 Giandomenico worked both as an independent artist and as his father's assistant or associate. While working with his father on an elaborate decorative project for the Residenz of the prince-bishop in Würzburg he also produced religious works, such as The Institution of the Eucharist (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen).

Giandomenico's art is characterized by an absence of the histrionic and by the clear presence of his sharp eye for the realistic detail. His highly original frescoes of 1757 for the guesthouse of the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza depicted, along with festive urban promenades, some peasants having a picnic (Pallucchini, Rodolfo. Gli affieschi di Giambattista e Giandomenico Tiepolo alla villa Valmarana di Vicenza. Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d'Arti Grafiche, 1945, pl. 108). He accompanied his father to Madrid in 1762 and, after his father's death in 1770, returned to Venice to continue his career there. With such works as Abraham and the Three Angels of 1773-74 (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice; Mariuz, Adriano. Giandomenico Tiepolo. Preface by Antonio Morassi. Profili e saggi di arte veneta: collezione diretta da Rodolfo Pallucchini, vol. 9. Venice: Alfieri, 1971, pl. 265) and the large Building of the Trojan Horse of the same year (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; Mariuz, Adriano. Giandomenico Tiepolo. pl. 270) he showed himself able to work within the official monumental tradition of Venetian painting.

Giandomenico's last fresco cycle, of the late 1790s, was a purely private exercise done for the family villa at Zianigo near Mestre; most of the frescoes are now installed in the Ca' Rezzonico in Venice. These remarkable scenes are the purest expressions of Giandomenico's pungent wit, voiced through the commedia dell'arte persona of Punchinello, the raffish bungler with a humpback, outsized nose, and funny hat (Mariuz, Adriano. Giandomenico Tiepolo, pls. 346-83; Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings. Exhibition organized by Adelheid M. Gealt. Essay and catalogue by Marcia E. Vetrocq. Bloomington: Indiana University Art Museum, 1979). Punchinello romps through life with his fellow creatures, who dutifully mourn him when he dies but then mock him as he creeps out of the tomb and peers from behind the stone. The series transcends the comic and reads as Giandomenico's comments on life's vicissitudes. The artist lived on until 1804, dying in Venice that year.

Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 57.

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