Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO (Venice 1727 - Venice 1804)

Hercules and Antaeus Sold

Pen and brown ink and brown and grey wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Signed Dom. Tiepolo f at the lower right and numbered 77 at the upper left.
203 x 162 mm. (8 x 6 3/8 in.)


This splendid sheet may be added to a series of drawings of Hercules and Antaeus by Domenico Tiepolo that have been dated to the latter part of the artist’s career. The largest single group of drawings of this subject, numbering thirty-eight sheets, were once in a small album formerly in the Henri Bordes collection and purchased by Colnaghi’s from Paul Prouté in 1936. The album was broken up and the drawings dispersed among public and private collections between 1936 and 1941, and examples are today in the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA, and elsewhere.

The present sheet is, however, unlikely to have been part of the Bordes group, since none of the drawings included in the album were numbered. A handful of drawings from the Hercules and Antaeus series were known, however, before the appearance of the Bordes album. One example, numbered 94, entered the collection of the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin in 1902 and another was in the Michel-Lévy collection and was sold in Paris in 1919; a third example appeared on the art market in Amsterdam in 1929. Four other studies of the same subject, also not from the Bordes collection, were included in an album of drawings by Domenico Tiepolo belonging to the Earls Beauchamp and sold at auction in London in 1965; one of these drawings was numbered 36.

James Byam Shaw has suggested that these Hercules and Antaeus drawings may have been related to the decoration of the Tiepolo villa at Zianigo, since many of the drawings depict the struggling figures of Hercules and Antaeus on the same sort of ledge that appears in other drawings by Domenico - mostly of animals - that are thought to have been intended for the Zianigo villa. As Byam Shaw notes, ‘It seems possible, therefore, that the subject was at least conceived as a suitable one for the decoration of that villa, and that the series was drawn at a relatively late date in Domenico’s career.’

This series of drawings of Hercules and Antaeus by Domenico does not relate to any painting or fresco by the artist, and may instead be counted among the many pen and wash drawings – all variations on a theme – that the artist produced in the second half of his career. Byam Shaw suggests that this particular series of drawings may have been inspired by a drawing or print after a sculptural group of Hercules and Antaeus, such as a small bronze by the Renaissance sculptor Antico, known in several casts.

Art market, Paris, in 1964
Walter Goetz, Paris and London
Thence by descent until 2006.

Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO

Hercules and Antaeus


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