Italian, 1727–1804

"Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo trained with his father Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. In 1737, when only 10 years old, he is known to have assisted his father in his work at Villa Valmarana, near Vicenza. Despite this active collaboration, which for many years absorbed a great part of his energies, Giovanni Domenico also developed a body of work of his own, as both painter and etcher. In 1743 he went to Dresden to work at the court of Charles Philip, Duke of Franconia. While there he is believed to have produced two paintings depicting the Flight into Egypt, for which he is known to have done the preliminary drawings. He also made an admirable series of 24 engravings. In 1745 he returned to Venice for the wedding of his sister Elena to Giuseppe Bardese di Andrea. In 1749 he painted a Way of the Cross for the church of S Paolo. He then accompanied his father on his journey to Würzburg (1750-1753) to decorate the new palace of the prince-bishop. In 1761 he left for Spain with his father and his brother Lorenzo to decorate the royal palace in Madrid, leaving that city after his father's death in 1770. He returned again to Venice in 1771, living with his mother and sisters in the parish of S Fosca. On 20 October 1776 he married Margherita Moschien, with whom he had two daughters who seem not to have survived. Summoned to Genoa in 1783, he decorated several rooms in the ducal palace there.

"For a long time Giovanni Domenico's work was overshadowed by the immense production of his father, especially since he was regarded mainly as his father's assistant. It was known that, as well as religious compositions in the spirit of, but inferior to, those of his father, Domenico also produced some charming drawings of various kinds, including some amusing caricatures. Also on record were his Punchinellos and Mascarades, some of which are conserved at Ca' Rezzonico (along with the typically Venetian scenes of Pietro Longhi). The bitter accents of these works are akin to those of Goya or Daumier, of whom Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo may be regarded as a precursor.

"The kinship between Tiepolo and Goya is most evident in the paintings with which the former, beginning in 1790, decorated the walls of his own villa in Zianigo. Free of all religious constraint and protected from any official disapproval, they are reminiscent of Goya's decoration of the Quinta del Sordo done between 1818 and 1823. Tiepolo's frescoes were exhibited briefly in Paris in 1986 at the Musée de l'Orangerie and in 2000 at the Museo Correr in Venice, in an exhibition entitled: Satyrs, Centaurs and Punchinellos: The Restored Frescoes of Giandomenico Tiepolo Conserved at Ca' Rezzonico (Satiri, Centauri e Pulcinelli: Gli Affreschi Restaurati di Giandomenico Tiepolo Conservati a Ca Rezzonico).

"Two themes predominate in these scenes; the frolics of families of hunchbacked, hook-nosed Punchinellos, and the sly, perverse pleasures of Carnival. Admittedly, this subject matter, played out as it is in daylight and in the public squares of Venice, is remote from the sorcery of the Quinta del Sordo, but it is nevertheless the dark side of human nature which triumphs. The scenes feature confidence tricksters, toothless fortune-tellers, bewigged little marquises, an old madam with clothing awry and a grimacing Punchinello taking on a weary-looking powdered marchioness. There is all the charm and horror of Goya's The Young and The Old. The settings and costumes are sumptuous, and sumptuously painted in the style of Watteau. The faces, uncovered or masked, either bear the marks of fear or are frightening for others, in a style only Goya was later to equal. It is great art when mastery of technique sublimates the thing depicted.

"Canaletto, Guardi, Longhi and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo restored some of the splendour of the Venetian republic in their painting. But, coming in the twilight years of the 18th century, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's work, long ignored, is a revelation. His is the portrait of a dying Venice, concealing its anguish under the masks of Carnival. He captures the atmosphere of the jarring comedies of Goldoni" (Benezit, Dictionary of Artists, Gründ, 2006).

Museum Collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Le Musée Ingres, Montauban
Rijskmuseum, Amsterdam

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