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: A Painting by Domenico Tiepolo


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Society has recently acquired from the income of the Dunwoody Fund a portrait which may justly be described as one of the masterpieces of painting of the Venetian school in the XVIII century. This Head of an Old Man is one of the finest pieces of painting which we have from the brush of Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, the son of Gian Battista Tiepolo, the great genius not only of the Venetian school but of all Italy in the XVIII century. In the period of exhaustion which followed the Renaissance, only one school of painting presents a brilliant exception. This was the school of Venice. Compared with the non-entities of the other Italian schools in the Settecento, the list of XVIII-century Venetian masters is an impressive one. Familiar to all are the names of the landscape painters Bellotto, Canaletto, and Guardi. The frivolous temper of this age finds itself reflected in the portraits of Rosalba Carriera, and the genre scenes of Pietro Longhi. Conspicuous among the historical and decorative painters were Sepastiano Ricci, Pittoni, and Piazzetta, but their fame grows dim in the light of Gian Battista Tiepolo, who gave, as it were, ultimate expression to the great art of Venice.It would be idle to argue that his son, Domenico, displayed the same extraordinary genius that marked the productions of Gian Battista, but, at his best, he approaches so closely to his father that their works have often been confused. Born August 30, 1727, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo died March 3, 1804. He accompanied and assisted his father in most of his important decorative work, which may explain why so few separate pictures by Domenico have come down to us. In 1761 Domenico accompanied his father and his younger brother, Lorenzo, to Spain, where they worked for the Court at Madrid.Domenico was not only distinguished as a painter but won considerable fame as an etcher. Among his etchings may be noted a set of twenty-four designs illustrating the Flight into Egypt. Another well known set, composed of sixty etchings in two series, is called the Raccolta di Teste. These etchings represent character studies of heads, many of which are from the paintings of Gian Battista. Among these etchings one is reproduced in the portrait acquired by the Society.The portrait is that of an old man with a long white beard, examining a book with a reading glass. His costume is particularly sumptuous. He wears a gold brocaded cloak and a blue cap, trimmed with gold, from which depends a blue scarf. The flesh tints are exquisite in color. A warm golden light irradiates the whole composition. The brush work is masterly, and the sense of composition most pleasing. So excellent are the technical characteristics of this painting that it has been at times attributed to Gian Battista not without plausibility.The history of the portrait is well known. It can be traced back to the Galerie Manfrin in Venice. It then passed into the collection of John Heugh, London. From this collection it was acquired by Rudolphe Kann, Paris, and was included in the sale of this famous collection a few years ago. An inferior replica is in the Munich National Museum. Both paintings are listed in Sack's authoritative book on the Tiepolo family.Referenced Works of Art
  1. Head of an Old Man, by Domenico Tiepolo
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Source: Joseph Breck, "A Painting by Domenico Tiepolo," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 5, no. 1 (January, 1916): 4-6.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009