This amusing and delightful drawing is one of Giandomenico's 'Scene di vita quotidiana', called by Byam Shaw The Contemporary Scene, the series that he described as the most original of all Giandomenico's contributions to Venetian art. Byam Shaw believed the origins of this series could be traced to the frescoes painted by Giambattista and Giandomenico together in 1757 for Giustino Valmarana, in the Foresteria of his villa near Vicenza, pointing out the striking difference between Giandomenico's modern and direct approach in describing the scenes from daily life, and his father Giambattista's more traditional interpretation of similar subjects, still conceived in the grand Venetian manner. Very unusually for Giandomenico, many of the drawings in the 'Scene di vita quotidiana' series are dated. Mostly, they are, like the present work, dated 1791, but Byam Shaw believed some are earlier, and others are certainly later (one seems to be dated 1800).2 They are generally, as here, finished, pictorial horizontal compositions, of a large format, and surely created as independent works in their own right, not preparatory for paintings. Byam Shaw wrote: 'When a picture of nearly the same composition occurs, that must be regarded as another example of Giandomenico's repetitive methods: and whether the drawing was done before the painting, or the painting before the drawing, must be decided on the evidence of each case.'3 Also particularly characteristic of the scenes of Venetian life series is what Byam Shaw describes as 'a dash of caricature', an element characteristic of the artist's later years, and surely inspired by his father's successful caricatures of single figures, which he often copied and reused in his own compositions. This leaning towards caricature is discernible in the depiction of the present couple. When creating these amusing scenes portraying the bourgeoisie or fashionable society, Giandomenico was clearly also influenced by popular theatre, and in particular by the realistic and innovative style of the famous Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, whom he must have known personally.
Giandomenico reused part of this composition, the elegant couple and the young codega, in another drawing, now in Rotterdam.4 Smaller than the present sheet and very different in character, the five figures standing alongside the lantern bearer in that drawing are all grotesquely deformed, thereby losing the realistic touch found in the scenes of Venetian life. The Rotterdam drawing was engraved, in the same direction, by Teodoro Viero;5 Gealt and Knox suggest that the form of its signature, Dom,o Tiepolo Inv. f, implies that it was done for the engraver, although the engraving is in fact slightly larger.
Gealt and Knox have suggested that the pivotal figure of the codega could be inspired by one of Giovanni David's acquatints 'Le Gondolier' in his Ritratti vari, a publication printed in Venice in 1775. As Aikema notes, however, the same young lantern bearer wearing a bauta already appears in the room of Carnival scenes, part of the late 1750s decoration in the Foresteria of the Villa Valmarana at Vicenza. He is used again by Giandomenico in his Punchinellos waiting outside the circus, where he directs attention to a poster of an elephant attached outside the wooden gate of a circus.6
1. Exhib. cat., op. cit., Washington 1974, p. 53, and Aikema and Tuijn, op. cit., p. 144
2. A.M. Gealt and G. Knox, op. cit., p. 151, no. 51
3. J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, London 1962, p. 47
4. Ibid., p. 187, no. 83, reproduced p. 186
5. Ibid., p. 187, no. 83A, reproduced p. 186
6. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman collection, inv. no. 1975.1.469, see J. Byam-Shaw and G. Knox, op. cit., p. 209 , no. 172, reproduced
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