Edited by Luca Fiorentino

This invented head is in all likelihood part of a book of 93 sheets of characters’ heads drawn by the best known and most important Veneto artist of 18th century, Giovan Battista Tiepolo1.

After a cursory black-chalk underdrawing, the artist marked out the lines in pen and ink in an equally quick, calligraphic manner. Thanks to skilful brushwork, the wash of diluted ink is suffused and delicate in places (like the face and hair, for example), and appears darker and more concentrated in others (like certain parts of the collar, and in a few quick strokes in the curly hair). The chiaroscuro effects thus obtained are marvelous, and can be compared to numerous sheets by the Veneto maestro, who demonstrated great inventiveness and imagination for poses, figures with distinctive physiognomies, and garments.

This quick drawing encapsulates all of Tiepolo’s graphic art, and in a certain sense all of 18th-century European art as well: the boy’s puckish air and the clear, crystalline light that moulds and sculpts him onto the paper.

The painterly use of light among the best Veneto artists had greatly influenced the most admired painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, but none was as capable as Tiepolo of creating an iconic style and transmuting characters and stories into an idyll of colours and Arcadian images.

1 On the album and on these characteristic invented heads see: Bernard Aikema et alii, Tiepolo in Holland, exhibition catalogue, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 1996, p. 90.

We should also keep in mind how sought-after these Tiepolo drawings were in successive years as well.

In his large collection, Antonio Canova had four books of drawings by the Venetian artist. On this point see: Giuseppe Pavanello, Canova collezionista di Tiepolo, contributions by Adriano Mariuz and Paolo Mariuz, Mariano del Friuli (GO), 1996.

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