Design for an Elaborate Vase with Allegorical Figures
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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Design for an Elaborate Vase with Allegorical Figures

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Medium Pen and black ink

Dimension 28.1 x 20.2 cm (11¹/₈ x 8 inches)

This is a rare youthful work by Giambattista Tiepolo, by whom relatively few drawings survive from the beginning of his independent career. Like several of Tiepolo’s drawings from the initial phase of his activity – that is, between 1715, when he painted his earliest known work, and 1731, when he undertook his first commission outside the Veneto – the present sheet is characterized by strong pen hatching. Little is still known of Tiepolo’s draughtsmanship between 1715 and 1725, however, largely due to the paucity of drawings from this important formative period. Indeed, only around two or three dozen early drawings by the artist are extant today, only a few of which may be connected with paintings or print designs of the period.

Datable to the beginning of the 1720s, the present sheet was first published by the scholar Bernard Aikema in 2004. As he wrote, ‘another drawing executed in the hatched pen technique over a sketch in black chalk, again, typical of the early 1720s, shows an ornamental vase, exuberantly decorated with various motifs, including male nudes in various poses…This design for a vase is a rare early example of a subject the artist would return to more often in the 1730s and 1740s.’ Aikema further points out that the large ornamental vase in this drawing is similar to that found in Tiepolo’s monumental canvas of Massiva Before Scipio Africanus of c.1719-1721, today in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. The decorative motifs and patterns drawn in black ink on the verso of the present sheet can likewise be related to those found on the steps of the base of Scipio’s throne in the same painting. As Aikema suggests, therefore, it would seem reasonable to regard this drawing as a preparatory study for the Baltimore picture.

The nude male figures flanking the vase in this drawing are, as Aikema has pointed out, akin to those found on a sheet of figure studies in pen and ink by the young Giambattista Tiepolo in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne. Several drawings of similar decorative vases by Tiepolo, although probably somewhat later in date, are today in the collection of the Museo Civico Sartorio in Trieste.

Pen and black ink, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Several studies of decorative mouldings, numbered between 1 and 18, drawn in black ink over black chalk on the verso.

Medium: Pen and black ink

Dimension: 28.1 x 20.2 cm (11¹/₈ x 8 inches)

Provenance: Giancarlo Baroni, Florence and Crans-Montana
His posthumous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 30 January 2013, lot 107 Anonymous sale, Paris, Christie’s, 25 March 2015, lot 110.

Literature: Bernard Aikema, Some Early Drawings by Giambattista Tiepolo, Master Drawings, Winter 2004, pp.365-367, figs.6-7.

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