Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO (Venice 1727 - Venice 1804)

A Standing Lion Sold

Pen and grey ink and grey wash, over traces of an underdrawing in black chalk, with framing lines in grey ink.
Signed Dom.o Tiepolo f. at the lower right.
217 x 152 mm. (8 1/2 x 6 in.)


This drawing is one of a group of studies of various animals and birds that have been dated to the latter part of Domenico Tiepolo’s career, after his return from Spain in 1770, and perhaps as late as the 1790s. James Byam Shaw has associated these drawings with the fresco decoration of the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo, near Padua; most of the frescoes in the rooms of this small country house were detached in 1907 and are now in the Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. Remnants of several frescoes depicting various animals in landscape settings remain in situ in the villa, however, and some of Domenico’s animal drawings correspond exactly to these. Many drawings of animals by Domenico Tiepolo incorporate a ledge or dado at the bottom, and Byam Shaw suggested that they may have been intended for a frieze running around the upper walls of one or more of the rooms in the villa at Zianigo.

Byam Shaw further noted of these drawings of animals that ‘if most of these drawings belong to the latter part of Domenico Tiepolo’s career, it is also evident that his interest in drawing animals goes back a good deal further in date...twenty, thirty, even forty years earlier perhaps; and that he collected from one source or another, at that time, certain animal patterns that he kept by him, as he kept other models, for the rest of his life. From one source or another: for the truth is that relatively few of these animals, certainly not the more exotic ones, were observed from life.’

Unlike dogs or horses, lions are relatively rare in Domenico Tiepolo’s paintings and drawings. The most significant example is a monochrome fresco depicting a pride of lions in a landscape, which was part of the decoration of the Villa Tiepolo at Zianigo. This soppraporta, or overdoor, fresco survives at the villa, albeit in a very ruined state.

An almost identical standing lion appears in Domenico’s drawing of The Holy Family with the Bending Palm in the collection of the Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington, Indiana, part of the so-called ‘Large Biblical Series’; a group of large and highly finished drawings executed by the artist over the same period as the animal studies. The same lion also appears in a drawing of Spectators Before a Cage of Lions in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, part of another series of drawings by Domenico known as the ‘Scenes of Contemporary Life’, executed around 1791.

Two drawings of reclining lions by Domenico Tiepolo from the same series of animal studies, one of which is specifically related to one of the lions in the overdoor fresco at Zianigo, were at one time in the collection of Paul Wallraf. A handful of other drawings of this type and size, each showing a single lion on a pedestal, are known; a study of a Standing Lion, Looking to the Left was formerly in the collection of Benno Geiger in Venice, while a drawing of A Seated Lion appeared at auction in 1987.

Among the very few other drawings with lions by Giandomenico Tiepolo is a drawing of Men Watching a Pride of Lions in the Courtauld Institute Galleries in London and a Lion, Lioness and Cubs in the Art Institute of Chicago, while a Hercules and the Nemean Lion was formerly in the Italico Brass collection.

Gustav Nebehay, Vienna, in 1927
Anonymous sale, Stuttgart, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, 24 November 1953, lot 924 (bt. Colnaghi)
P. & D. Colnaghi, London
Sold to Tomás Harris, London, on 24 September 1954
Sir Valentine Abdy, Paris, in 1961
Clifford Duits, London, in 1963
Francis A. Drey, London, in c.1971
Private collection.

Adelheid M. Gealt and George Knox, ed., Giandomenico Tiepolo: Scene di vita quotidiana a Venezia e nella terraferma, Venice, 2005, p.126, under no.33.

Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO

A Standing Lion


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