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Venice 1727–1804 Venice

Zephyr, Standing in Profile to the right, Holding a Bunch of Flowers

Zephyr, Standing in Profile to the right, Holding a Bunch of Flowers

Signed in pen and brown ink, lower right, Dom. Tiepolo f and inscribed, verso, Zefiro (according to the 2004 sale catalogue, but no longer visible as sheet is now laid down)

Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk

11¼ x 4½ inches

284 x 115 mm


Sale: London, Christie’s, 6 July 2004, lot 81

Drawn after 1770

This luminous sheet is a typical example of Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s mature drawings associated with garden statuary. The large group includes mainly full-length studies of individual deities or mythological figures not always recognizable from their attributes. The subject of our drawing has been tentatively identified as Zephyr, the gentlest of the winds, shown holding a cornucopia (?) or simply a bunch of flowers to signify that he is the harbinger of Spring. Flowers or leaves adorn his hair. Unusually for a representation of a god of wind he is not winged, prompting the suggestion that he may instead be a personification of a fruit-bearing season, possibly Autumn.¹

Such ambiguity is not surprising. Of the approximately one hundred drawings of statue-like standing pagan deities and classical heroes by Domenico, some are inscribed by the artist with the name of the character, some can be identified by their attributes, while others “remain as anonymous and as romantically charming as many of their counterparts in stone in the villa gardens.”²

Domenico’s drawings are indebted to Giovanni Battista’s similar studies of single or grouped figures, which George Knox associated with the sculptural decorations of Villa Cordellina at Montecchio Maggiore, west of Vicenza.³ The elder Tiepolo worked there in 1743, supervising the sculptors’ work and supplying them with drawings. A few years later, in 1757, father and son worked nearby at Villa Valmarana, potentially allowing Domenico access to the Cordellina gardens. Whether or not he studied the statues based on Giovanni Battista’s designs, Domenico could certainly refer to his father’s drawings, as attested by his many copies and repetitions of the same subjects. Recurring characters include Venus, Leda, Ceres, and Ganymede. A case in point is offered by two studies for Meleager at the Fondation Custodia, Paris; one being by Giovanni Battista and the other a faithful copy by Domenico.⁴

In their monumental appearance and choice of subject matter, Domenico’s figures also bring to mind other contemporary examples of garden sculptures, including those realized by Orazio Marinali (1643–1720) for Villa Trissino Marzotto in Trissino.⁵

As for their function, Linda Wolk-Simon remarked that “isolated on pedestal-like bases against neutral backdrops and outfitted with supporting struts disguised as draperies or rocks, these figures, with their hard contours and surfaces akin to polished marble” evoke sculpture and “it is not implausible that the drawings were conceived with garden statuary in mind,” although no connected statues exist.⁶

Out of all the connected drawings by Domenico, the closest comparison is with a standing female figure, seen in profile, looking left, holding a sheaf of dried ears of corn and crowned with a wheat wreath, probably meant to represent Ceres, goddess of agriculture, grain crops, and fertility, or, perhaps, the season of Summer.⁷ Like other sheets from the series, the Ceres bares the collector’s mark of Luigi Grassi (Lugt 1171b) and was part of his Sotheby’s sale (London, 13 May 1924), where a number of them were acquired by Robert Lehman who later bequeathed them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with other related sheets of different provenance.⁸

Further related drawings are held at The Morgan Library⁹ and the Princeton University Art Museum;¹⁰ several more are in other public and private collections. A sizeable group, once in the collection of Giuseppe Fiocco, is now at the Fondazione Cini, Venice.¹¹ These sheets do more than evoke garden statuary: their choice of a perspective di sotto in sù (from below to above) – uncommon within the series – suggests more clearly that here Domenico was either referring to existing sculptures on balustrades or pedestals or, alternatively, designing figures to be realized by a sculptor.

  1. We wish to thank Elizabeth McGrath and Paul Taylor from the Warburg Institute, London, for their suggestion that our figure may be a personification of a season.

  2. J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, London, 1962, p. 40.

  3. G. Knox, Catalogue of the Tiepolo Drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, nos. 74-80; see F. Rigon et al., eds., I Tiepolo e il Settecento vicentino, exhibition catalogue, Basilica Palladiana, Vicenza, 1990, pp. 321-23.

  4. Inv. 1982-T.42, pen and brown ink, brown wash over a sketch in black chalk, 296 x 200 mm; inv. 1357, pen and brown ink, brown wash over a sketch in black chalk, 288 x 150 mm; J. Byam Shaw, The Italian Drawings of the Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 1983, vol. 1, pp. 294-97, nos. 283, 285, vol. 3, plates 332-33.

  5. L. Wolk-Simon, “Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints and Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 54, no. 3, Winter 1996-97, p. 49.

  6. Wolk-Simon, op. cit., p. 49, ill. p. 50, nos. 73-74.

  7. Pen and brown ink and wash, over black chalk, 285 x 179 mm, signed, lower right, Dom. Tieplo f.; provenance: Luigi Grassi (L. 1171b), sale: Sotheby’s, London, 19 June 1973, lot 218.

  8. See J. Byam Shaw, The Robert Lehman Collection, Italian Eighteenth-Century Drawings, New York, 1987, nos. 135-8, and J. Bean and W. Griswold, Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1990, nos. 246-47, illustrated.

  9. Inv. 1997.78, pen and brown ink and wash, over black chalk, 254 x 149 mm; F. Stampfle, and C. D. Denison, Drawings from the Collection of Lore and Rudolf Heinemann, New York, 1973, no. 95, illustrated.

  10. Inv. x1948-891, pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk on off-white laid paper, 277 x 164 mm; G. Knox, “Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo at Princeton,” Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 23, no. 1 (1964), p. 28, no. 91, illustrated, p. 22.

  11. A. Bettagno, Disegni veneti del Settecento della Fondazione Giorgio Cini e delle collezioni venete, Venice, 1963, pp. 68-69, nos. 93-97, illustrated.

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