Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO (Venice 1727 - Venice 1804)

A Reclining Centaur and a Satyress in a Landscape Sold

Pen and grey and brown ink and grey wash, with touches of brown wash, over traces of an underdrawing in black chalk.
Signed Dom.o Tiepolo f. at the lower right and numbered 9 at the upper left.
Inscribed Gli amori de’ centauri colle ninfe boschereccie - disegno originale / di Domenico Tiepolo col nome autografo – fr. 5. on the verso.
Numbered 294 on the verso.
194 x 269 mm. (7 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)


Not all of Domenico Tiepolo’s drawings of centaurs, satyrs and fauns are violent in nature. In many of the later drawings in the series, such as the present sheet, the relationship between centaur and his female companion is more tender, and even amorous. (An 18th century Italian inscription on the verso of the sheet identifies both the subject – the love of centaurs for woodland nymphs - and artist.) As the Tiepolo scholar Adelheid Gealt has written, ‘This romantic side of his centaurs’ nature is one of Domenico’s inventions that he developed over time...Domenico’s drawings of the relations between centaurs and fauns, comprising seductions, romances, pure joyous play...have virtually no visual precedent and are among Domenico’s richest inventions.’

Among other drawings of a languid centaur with an acquiescent nymph or satyress are examples in the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as several in private collections, while the subject is also found in a large drawing of The Lady and the Centaur in the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the artist’s late Punchinello cycle of finished drawings. A similar arrangement of an amorous centaur and satyress also appears, albeit in reverse, in one of the frescoes painted by Domenico for the Tiepolo villa at Zianigo, now in the Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice.

In his seminal article on this fascinating group of drawings, Jean Cailleux praised ‘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.’ Unlike most of the artist’s other series of independent pen and wash drawings, such as the ‘Large Biblical Series’ or the Punchinello drawings, there is no obvious narrative thread that ties these scenes together, though they are nevertheless linked by being of similar size and technique, and containing the same cast of mythological characters; centaurs, satyrs, nymphs and fauns. As James Byam Shaw has noted, ‘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.’

Galerie Paul Prouté et ses fils, Paris, in 1967
William H. Schab Gallery, New York, in c.1970
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 12 January 1994, lot 15
Private collection.

Paris, Galerie Paul Prouté et ses fils, Catalogue ‘Desrais’: Dessins Estampes, 1967, no.75 (priced at FF 12,500); New York, William H. Schab Gallery, Catalogue Fifty: Fine and Rare Drawings, Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts of the 15th to the 20th Centuries from Distinguished Collections, n.d. [1970?], pp.84-86, no.78 (priced at $5,500); New York, William H. Schab Gallery, Catalogue Fifty-Four: Master Prints & Drawings from the Fifteenth to the Twentieth Centuries, n.d. [1974?], pp.34-35, no.16 (priced at $5,500); 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.xvii, no.42 C&F b3, fig.40; Marcia Vetrocq and Adelheid Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Bloomington and Stanford, 1979-1980, p.114, under no.39; Adelheid Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo: The Punchinello Drawings, London, 1986, p.136, under no.56.

Giovanni Domenico TIEPOLO

A Reclining Centaur and a Satyress in a Landscape


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