Lot 11
  • 11

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
  • Head of an Old Man Looking Down
  • Pen and brown ink and wash over traces of black chalk;bears numbering to the remains of the old album page, verso: 84
  • 237 by 194 mm; 9 3/8  by 7¾ in


Given by the artist to the Library of the Somasco Convent, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice;
Count Leopoldo Cicognara, Venice;
Antonio Canova, the sculptor,
thence by descent to his half-brother, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Sartori-Canova;
Francesco Pesaro, Venice;
Edward Cheney, by 1842,
thence by inheritance to his brother-in-law, Col. Alfred Capel-Cure, Blake Hall, Essex,
his sale, London, Sotheby's 29 April 1885, lot 1024, where acquired by E. Parsons;
The Earl of Ranfurly;
with P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London;
Richard Owen, Paris;
Contini collection;
private collection, New York;
with Belle Arti, Geneva,
where purchased in 1996


G. Knox, Giambattista e Domenico Tiepolo: Raccolta di teste, Udine 1970, vol. II, under no. 24, reproduced;
A. Rizzi, The Etchings of the Tiepolos. Complete Edition, London 1971, p. 398, fig. LXIII, under no. 215

Catalogue Note

Exotic and highly expressive, this study belongs to a large group of 93 fantastical head studies which share the same provenance as the series of drawings on the theme of The Holy Family (see lot 24). When this series of head studies was in the possession of Richard Owen (see Provenance) each one was photographed, and a set of images is preserved in the Library of the Harvard Art Museums.  Knox dates the drawings to c.1760, much the same moment when the artist was working on his Holy Family series. Like the Holy Family drawings, these were conceived as independent works, rather than as preparatory studies for specific paintings.  Bernard Aikema suggests that they may have been produced as a type of pattern book of motifs to be used in future paintings by the atelier, and specifically by Tiepolo’s sons, Domenico and Lorenzo.2

Giambattista Tiepolo’s series of head studies also served as the basis for two sets of etchings by his son Domenico. These Raccolte di Teste were executed by Domenico between 1770 and 1774 and were made as a tribute to his father, who died on 27 March 1770. An etching of a very similar turbaned head study features in volume II of Domenico’s series (fig. 1).3  Also very similar is another drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, depicting a bearded man in a jewelled turban, but there the figure’s head is more bent forward than in the Barnet drawing, and the turban covers more of his face.4  Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo also executed a fine oil painting of the Head of an Old Man, sold in these Rooms in 2008, which is close to his father's drawing.5

Though we cannot see the old man’s eyes, a strong sense of personality emanates from this expressive study, and the viewer is totally captivated by the image.  Just as in his drawing of the Holy Family (lot 23), Giovanni Battista’s skill in creating both form and emotional engagement with such economy of media is nothing short of genius.

1. Tiepolo, A Bicentenary Exhibition 1770-1970. Drawings, mainly from American collections by Giambattista Tiepolo and the members of his circle, exhib. cat., Havard University, Fogg Art Museum, 1970, under no. 93

2. B. Aikema et al., Tiepolo in Holland, exhib. cat., Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 1996, p. 90

3. G. Knox, op. cit., Vol II. No. II 24

4. Ibid., vol I, Fig. I 10

5. Sale, New York, Sotheby's, 5 June 2008, lot 115