Studies of Nude Male Figures in Various Poses

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Italian (active Venice, Udine, Würzburg, and Madrid) 1696 - 1770

Made in Venice, Italy, Europe

c. 1720-1730

Pen and brown ink on laid paper

Sheet: 16 15/16 x 11 9/16 inches (43.1 x 29.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Muriel and Philip Berman Gift, acquired from the Matthew Carey Lea bequest of 1898 to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, with funds contributed by Muriel and Philip Berman and the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund (by exchange), 1984

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Tiepolo was the last great exponent of the Venetian painting and drawing tradition, conspicuous among his contemporaries for his command of fresco, easel painting, drawing, and etching. He worked in Milan, Padua, Würzburg, and Madrid, as well as in Venice, creating brilliantly colored, airy, and illusionistic wall and ceiling decorations.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This curious sheet as well as another in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with similar figure sketches in pen and ink and an identical provenance (1984-56-93), constitute a unique pair among extant works by the artist. The attribution of both drawings to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, indicated on the present sheet by the pencil inscription on the verso, was made by Philip Pouncey and Janos Scholz (n.d.) and corroborated by Terisio Pignatti (note on mat, n.d.). There is general consensus that they date from early in the artist’s career (Cambridge and New York 1996-97, p. 29). Evidently sketched from his imagination, the sheets reveal Tiepolo’s consummate control over the shape of the human body in any number of configurations. The figures, seen from below, appear to be a kind of repertoire for future compositions. A close look reveals that each is based on an arrangement of ink dots (cf. Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Kimbell Art Museum; Saint Louis, Missouri, The Saint Louis Art Museum. Venetian Drawings from American Collections: A Loan Exhibition. Exhibition catalogue by Terisio Pignatti. Washington, D.C.: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1974, no. XXVI). A challenge that artists of the day enjoyed was to present to each other a clean sheet filled only with random dots, the receiver being called on to develop the dots as full figures. This may explain the present sheet. The dots have as much to do with the final figures as do the stars that make up the imagined scenes in the constellations, but the game would have been an engaging one that pitted talents one against the other. Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 31.

    Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Art Museums; New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library. Tiepolo and His Circle: Drawings in American Collections. Exhibition catalogue by Bernard Aikema. Translated by Andrew McCormick. New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1996, p. 28, fig. 1.