Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO (Venice 1696 - Madrid 1770)

A Sheet of Studies of Three Heads of Satyrs and the Head of Bacchus

Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Two small made up areas at the right centre and right centre edge.
229 x 135 mm. (9 x 5 1/4 in.)

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A splendid example of Giambattista’s Tiepolo’s facility as a draughtsman, this lively sheet of sketches may be related to a group of similar teste di fantasia drawn in pen and wash, generally dated to the 1740’s and 1750’s. More specifically, the drawing is likely to be contemporary with the series of etchings by the artist known as the Scherzi di fantasia, in which similar satyr’s heads appear. While the dating of the twenty-three Scherzi etchings has remained problematic, with opinions ranging from the mid-1730’s to the late 1750’s, they appear to have been produced over a period of at least a decade.

The present sheet may be associated with a number of other drawings by Tiepolo of similar subjects. A pair of drawings with similar studies of the heads of satyrs, women and masks – both signed ‘Tiepolo fecit’ – is in the collection of the Musée Atger in Montpellier. Two further drawings by Tiepolo in the Museo Civico di Storia ed Arte in Trieste, a study of masks and the heads of satyrs and a drawing of the heads of a Punchinello and a bearded old man, are also comparable. A drawing of the head of a satyr and Medusa was sold at auction in 1996, while a similar sheet of studies of fantastical or grotesque heads in grey ink and wash is in a private collection in New York. Similar masks also appear individually in other drawings by Giambattista Tiepolo, such as a study of ceiling figures in Trieste and a drawing which was on the London art market in 1963.

Drawings such as this sheet of studies seem to have served as a repertoire of motifs to be used in paintings or prints by the artist or his studio. Indeed, drawings of this type may have been studied by Tiepolo’s son Domenico, who etched a frieze of similar studies of satyrs’ heads, as well as by Tiepolo’s friend and patron Francesco Algarotti, who also produced a number of etchings of similar subjects.

Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO

A Sheet of Studies of Three Heads of Satyrs and the Head of Bacchus

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