Bernard Berenson, who saw these two paintings in the collection of J. P. Richter in London, considered them both to represent alternative versions of Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, and to be the work of the artist’s father Giambattista Tiepolo. Sack recognised them as the work of Gian Domenico, and dated them circa 1775. Subsequent scholars have put them slightly later in date: Mariuz for example dates them circa 1775-80. The similarity of all of them to the finished drawings in the large cycle of The New Testament drawn by Gian Domenico circa 1786-90 would suggest that they might be later still, perhaps painted in the 1780s.
They form part of a loose group of five sketch-like paintings on canvases of similar dimensions depicting scenes from the Ministry of Christ, all to be dated to the mid-1770s on grounds of style. The others are a Christ Rebukes the Unclean Spirit, formerly in the Marczell von Nemes collection in Munich, a Christ on the Lake of Tiberias, formerly with Agnew’s, London, and a Christ Calming the Tempest, formerly in the Fodor collection, Paris, and recently sold by their descendants in Paris, Christie’s, 26th June 2008, lot 59, for Euros 720,500.1
The purpose of these vivacious sketches is unknown. They could have been conceived as bozzetti for frescoes or a cycle of oil paintings, or modelli to present to a patron, but by this stage in the artist’s career they could also have been created as independent works. The present two in particular – more than the others – are very close to Gian Domenico Tiepolo’s drawing style, with the brush used in the same way he used the pen, turning it to create a thinning or thickening stroke, and using muted colour as he used a wash in drawing. They are comparable in style to two works, perhaps a pair, in Florence, Museo Stibbert and Treviso, Museo Civico, depicting scenes for the life of St John the Baptist: the Baptism of Christ and the Preaching of St John, both of which are notably sketch-like in style, and graphic in execution.2
The drawing-like quality of these two sketches is probably what appealed to Dr. Richter. J. Paul Richter was a London scholar and art critic, who lectured and published, principally on Italian art, from the 1880s onwards. He assembled an excellent collection of drawings, mostly Italian, which were sold in a joint dispersal with the Dutch and Flemish drawing collection belonging to J.P. Heseltine, in Amsterdam in 1913.
It is not known for certain how these two Tiepolos entered the collection of the present owner’s family, but since an ancestor was a diplomat in Paris around 1910, it is quite likely to have been then.
1. See A. Mariuz, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Venice & Milan 1971, pp. 121, 127, 133, reproduced plates 308, 309, 310.
2.They are larger, circa 105 by 62 cm. each; idem, pp. 119, 133, 137, reproduced plates 304 & 305.