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Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

Pen and brown ink drawing on paper depicting a wedding scene. The bride kneels, and is surrounded by men wearing tall cone-like hats, representing the comical character Punchinello.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The Marriage of Punchinello’s Father, from Divertimento per li regazzi (Diversion for children), 1797/1804. Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Regenstein Collection.

Also known as
Giandomenico Tiepolo, Domenico Tiepolo
Date of birth
Date of death

The son of famed painter Giambattista Tiepolo, and a nephew of Francesco Guardi, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo worked as an assistant to his father in Venice, Italy, before developing his own independent career as a painter and printmaker. Today, he is most admired for the many drawings and prints he produced throughout his life. 

At the age of twenty Tiepolo received his first important commission from the church of San Polo in Venice: a series of canvases depicting the Stations of the Cross. A talented etcher, he also published these paintings in print as a series of 15 etchings entitled Via Crucis. This marks Tiepolo’s first significant foray into working in series, a format perfectly suited for his boundless facility of invention. 

While assisting his father with a major decorative project in Germany, Tiepolo worked on a second series of prints, this time imagining scenes from the biblical story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fleeing into Egypt. Focusing on the human aspect of the narrative, and often depicting the scenes from unusual perspectives, these touching compositions—of which the Art Institute owns a complete set—were published in 1753. After the death of his father, and as a tribute to his memory, Tiepolo published a set of 60 etchings reproducing the heads of figures invented by Giambattista. The significant influence that Giambattista had on his son is evident when we compare Old Man with a Book—designed by Giambattista, with Head of a Philosopher—painted on canvas by Giovanni Domenico. 

Tiepolo drew constantly as a form of exercise and preparation for his paintings. Towards the end of his career he focused on several series of highly finished drawings in pen and wash, which he seemingly created for his own pleasure. The Art Institute owns four sheets from the Divertimento per li regazzi (Diversion for children), a series of compositions that bring to life the world of Punchinello, a mischievous and comical character of Italian popular theatre. In a more serious vein, the dramatic Jesus in the House of Jairus and the vivid Saint Peter and Rhoda are two examples from Tiepolo’s most ambitious narrative project: a cycle of over 300 drawings depicting episodes from the New Testament. With seemingly inextinguishable creativity, Tiepolo also produced numerous sheets depicting everyday life, exotic animals, mythological creatures, and subtle satires of contemporary fashions and customs.

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