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Giovanni Domenico

Italia • 1727−1804

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo was an Italian painter, draftsman, engraver. He studied under his father G. B. Tiepolo. He worked in his father’s studio in Venice, since 1760 he headed the studio, in 1762 he left for Spain, and after the death of Tiepolo the Elder in Madrid, he returned to Venice. He painted easel paintings on mythological, historical, and everyday subjects. In the 1750s and 1790s, he performed independent monumental paintings. Since 1772, he was professor at the Venetian Academy of Arts, since 1780, its President.

For a long time he was mentioned along with G. B. Tiepolo as an interpreter of his father’s manner. In the 1960s and 1970s, after a series of scientific publications by Italian researchers and an exhibition of works by the father and son in Udine (1971), the art of G. D. Tiepolo acquired greater clarity. Until the 1750s, he worked independently, mainly in easel painting. In 1747, he performed the Way of the Cross cycle of 14 paintings for the Oratorio del Crocifisso of the San Polo Church in Venice. The combination of the biblical events and the subjects taken from modern reality was not appreciated by his contemporaries. Created in parallel with the Flight to Egypt graphic series (1750—1753), his small compositions The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts) and Madonna and Sleeping Child (Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts) were treated as genre paintings. The influence of Tiepolo the Elder is seen in the colouristic solution of the works, individual details of the composition. But the acute character of the people surrounding the main subject, subtle poetics with the simultaneous interpretation of the events taking place in the manner of everyday scenes, reveal the traits of the young artist’s individuality. Just as in the palette of Tiepolo the Elder, spots of red, brown, yellow, green and white are prevailing, however, form a less bright colour. Large colour zones and a calm brushstroke create the impression of a more rational approach to the overall decorative solution of small canvases than that of his father. In the Council of the Knights of the Order of Malta painting (1749—1750s, Udine, City Museum), Tiepolo turned to a subject that was not typical for his father’s studio. A scene from modern history, which tells of the meeting of the Grand Council of the Order of Malta in the Maltese palace in 1749 and the issuance of a decree on the power of the nobles of Udine, acquires an independent value for the first time. Interest in modernity is also characteristic of the artist's works of the 1750s. With irony, Tiepolo tells about scenes of the Venetian carnival (Charlatan, mid-1750s, Louvre; Minuet of Pantalone and Columbine, 1756, Barcelona, Museum of Art) or about unusual events that attract a crowd of onlookers (Rhinoceros, 1750s, Venice, Catholic Bank; The Storyteller, c. 1757, New York, private collection). Without the playfulness of Rococo, with the tact of an outside observer, the artist conveyed the scene of the departure of the aristocratic Venetian society to their villas along the Brenta River (The Departure of the Gondola, 1755, Madrid, private collection). Easel works on modern subjects allowed Tiepolo to establish his style, which he transfered into monumental painting afterwards.
Giovanni Domenico (Giandomenico) helped his father in decorative paintings, and only began to carry out independent commissions in the mid-1750s. In 1756, the artist was elected a member of the Venetian Academy of Arts. In the paintings of the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza (1757), he was entrusted with the frescoes of the foresteria in the park — the premises for guests in the form of a gallery with seven halls on one side. In the paintings of the Rural Scenes Hall (Peasants’ Rest, Landscape with Two Peasants, Peasants’ Meal, Chinese Textile Seller) and the Carnival Scenes Hall (Charlatan, New World, Pantalone and Columbine), episodes from modern Venetian life are depicted with humour, an emphasis on the characteristic. The frescoes of the Gothic Hall (Declaration of Love, Winter Walk) are more decorative, although they also specifically outline the nature of the area and the nuances of lighting, and they are devoid of an abstract idyllic pastoral mood. Like C. Gozzi, author of Princess Turandot, Giovanni Domenico followed the epoch and introduced the scenes from Chinese life in the Chinese Hall. He often depicted figures in landscapes, brought the colouristic solution closer to the nature of changeable natural lighting. The illusory architectural details introduced by Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna (two staircases in the Carnival Scenes Hall, elements of the Gothic decoration fashionable in the 18th century — in the Gothic Hall), with figures of spectators next to them, gave rise to a new sense of the relationship between natural and artificial spaces, as merging these two worlds together. In the fresco in the Aeneid Hall, next to the works of his father, Venus in the Vulcan’s forge asks for a weapon for Aeneas, the symmetry of the composition and the bas-relief arrangement of the figures indicate that the principles of the Baroque illusionistic decoration of Tiepolo the Elder fettered the artist’s imagination and formed new techniques.
In the murals of a villa in Zianígo near Mitre (1791—1797), the artist completely departed from creating majestic mythological images, feeling their discrepancy with the aesthetic and artistic aspirations of the time. The cycle was his most significant work (the frescoes of individual rooms were transferred to canvas and exhibited in the museums of Correr, Ca’Rezzonico, and now are stored in a special room near the villa in Zianígo). The Triumph of the Arts covering the plafond of the first floor with many allegorical figures and a fresco image of Rinaldo in front of the statue of Armida, resurrecting the elegiac Arcadian world of Armida’s gardens, is pretty close to the manner of Tiepolo the Elder. The fake theatricality of these works contrasts sharply with the frescoes of the Pulcinella Hall and the Hall of the Centaurs. The artist introduced here the principle of decoration, which makes everyday scenes in panel paintings look like fragments of contemporary reality, opening up to the viewer frame by frame. The impression of a temporary development of the action is enhanced by the vertical format of the frescoes in the Pulcinella Hall (The Acrobats, Pulcinella Clowns Resting, Pulcinella in Love) and the frieze-like elongation of the murals in the New World Hall (The New World, The Walk, Minuet in Villa). And the plafond painting in the Pulcinella Hall (The Swing of Pulcinella) looks like a decorative insert, although the gallant scene in the spirit of the 18th century is depicted in light colours against the background of the sky. The Pulcinella image, which is often found in the artist’s paintings and graphics (Entertainment for Children (Divertimenti per i ragazzi) is an album of drawings dedicated to the Pulcinella theme and created at the same time as the villa cycle; England, private collection), is far from just the theatrical stereotype of the comedy del arte. For Tiepolo, it is a collective folk image full of irony and grotesque that carries a social meaning. The element of constant transformation of characters, as in Gozzi’s fiaba fairy tales, is inherent in the frescoes of the Hall of the Centaurs and the Hall of the Satyrs of the villa in Zianígo, where acrobats, gymnasts, actors, drawn into the atmosphere of theatrical travesty, drawn from modern Venetian reality, coexist with fantastic creatures. Giovanni Domenico transforms the world of the fairytale fantasy of Tiepolo the Elder into a new world, theatrical one, full of ironic assessment and subtle sense of his personal comprehension.
It is difficult to distinguish the individual manner of the artist in graphics due to the fact that, being an excellent draftsman, he often used his father’s drawings for his pictorial compositions. His hand is more noticeable in etchings. Narrativeness, subtle transmission of mood nuances and a new understanding of the constantly changing temporal development of action are inherent in his series of etchings, The Way of the Cross (1749) and The Flight into Egypt (1750—1753). The compositional and light solution of the engravings is built so that the movement seems to flow from one sheet to another, and the thin contour line only accentuates the rapid change of perspectives.
Heir to the painting tradition of Tiepolo the Elder, Giovanni Domenico brought a new air to the development of monumental painting. Ironically comparing the natural and the fashionable, the genuine and the imaginary, he observed and analysed life, mocking it from the point of an artist of the Age of Enlightenment.

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