Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727 - Venice 1804)

A Centaur with Two Satyrs and a Woman (Nessus and Deianira?) Sold

Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Signed Dom.o Tiepolo f. at the lower left and numbered 144 at the upper left.
192 x 243 mm. (7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)


This enchanting drawing belongs with a group of over one hundred and thirty drawings1 by Domenico Tiepolo depicting centaurs, fauns, satyrs and nymphs in landscape settings; a series of composition drawings in pen and ink wash which have been aptly characterized by James Byam Shaw as ‘the most delightful and original of all Domenico’s allegorical and mythological subjects’. As he further describes the drawings of this series, ‘Satyrs and Satyresses, and their engaging Faun families, share the scene with the Centaurs...sometimes going about their business peacefully enough, collecting wood, building shelters, dancing and somersaulting, or sitting down to a kitchen meal; but sometimes – the Centaurs particularly – more strenuously engaged, hunting, fighting bulls or lions, or carrying off a nymph in the mountain country.’ Jean Cailleux has identified some of these drawings - including the present sheet - as depicting variations on the theme of Nessus and Deianira, a subject taken from Greek mythology. Deianira, the wife of Hercules, was abducted by the centaur Nessus, who was later killed by Hercules with a poisoned arrow.

A handful of Domenico’s drawings of centaurs, fauns and satyrs may be related to his monochrome fresco decoration of two rooms – the Camera dei Satiri and the Camerino dei Centauri - in the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo; the detached frescoes are now in the Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. Most of these drawings, however, appear to have been made as autonomous works, as is true of much of the artist’s drawn oeuvre. As Byam Shaw notes, ‘These drawings are not sketches but works of art in their own right, homogenous in style...pictorially composed and finished.’ He has further suggested that Domenico’s centaur and satyr drawings may be dated to between 1771 and 1791, the dates of the decoration of the two rooms in the villa at Zianigo.

As James Byam Shaw has noted of these drawings of centaurs, satyrs and fauns, ‘The drawings of this series are perhaps the most charming and original of all Domenico’s drawings – original because less dependent on the inventions of other artists than some of his other series...and catching exactly the charm and gaiety of the pagan mythology.’ Jean Cailleux further praises ‘the inexhaustible inventiveness,...the freedom and unerringness of touch,...the fluidity of Domenico Tiepolo’s use of wash in this series which never becomes monotonous.’

Juan Jorge Peoli, New York (Lugt 2020)
His posthumous sale, New York, American Art Galleries, 8 May 1894 onwards, lot 597
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 23 March 1972, lot 132
Galerie Cailleux, Paris
‘R.V.’ collection, Paris, in 1974
Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 8 July 1980, lot 49
Private collection, Cheshire, until 2011.

Jean Cailleux, ‘L’Art du Dix-huitième Siècle: Centaurs, Fauns, Female Fauns, and Satyrs among the Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo’, The Burlington Magazine, June 1974 [supplement], pp.iii-iv and xv, no.34, fig.30; Jacob Bean and William Griswold, 18th Century Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1990, p.253, under no.248.

Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO

A Centaur with Two Satyrs and a Woman (Nessus and Deianira?)


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