Prior to this works appearance on the market (see Provenance) George Knox noted its close relationship to Tiepolo's fresco of the ceiling of the Sala degli Arazzi in the Palazzo Clerici, Milan, which depicts The Course of the Sun Chariot.1 Though both Jupiter and Mercury independently appear in the aforementioned fresco the final composition of these figures differs quite notably from the present work. However before Tiepolo set off from Venice for Milan, to undertake the Palazzo Clerici commission, the artist executed a preliminary oil sketch for the ceiling decoration, which is now housed in the collection of the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (fig. 1). The existence of this oil sketch illustrates two interesting points, the first of which is to highlight Tiepolo's seeming ignorance of the actual dimensions of the surfaces that were due to be painted in Milan, as the proportions of the oil sketch are not remotely consistent with those of the final fresco. The second more relevant point relates to the very close relationship found between the present drawing and the figure of Jupiter in the Fort Worth oil sketch, in which the God is portrayed in an almost identical pose, with a closely comparable figure seated next to him, much like the figure of Mercury in the present work.
Tiepolo is known to have executed a number of drawings in preparation for the Palazzo Clerici commission, with many of these surviving in two distinct groups, now housed between the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Fondazione Horne, Florence.2 The vast majority of these drawings, similarly executed to the present work in Tiepolo's distinctive combination of pen and brown ink and golden-brown wash over black chalk, can be dated on stylistic grounds to circa 1740. It is into this celebrated group of drawings, which in so many ways epitomise Tiepolo's graphic bravura, that the present work must surely be placed.
1. See F. Pedrocco, Tiepolo, The Complete Paintings, New York 2002, p. 245, no. 142, reproduced
2. See J. Bean and W. Griswold, 18th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1990, p. 203, under no. 192
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