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The Tiepolo family
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About the item

This beautiful and spirited group portrait by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo depicts the artist's family seated in an interior. It was probably painted shortly before he left for Spain in 1762 with his father, the celebrated Giovannni Battista Tiepolo, whose style and working technique he extended into the very first years of the nineteenth century. The unfinished nature of the work gives us a privileged insight into the artist's working technique, from the dark red ground used to prepare the canvas, to the different stages in which the figures and their costumes are completed. The resultant immediacy and directness strike a particularly resonant chord with the contemporary viewer. Moreover, the intimate character of the portrait allows us to appreciate the different role each member fills within the family unit and presents us with a snapshot of the clothing worn and furnishings used by affluent though by no means patrician Venetians.  To the left we see Giovanni Domenico's brother, Lorenzo (1736–76), seated at a table working on a pastel portrait of his elegantly dressed mother, Cecilia Tiepolo, who was the sister of two other great Venetian artists, Gian Antonio and Francesco Guardi. Behind the mother stands Giuseppe Maria, who became a priest in 1748. To the far right, the three Tiepolo sisters, Orsola, Angelica and Elena gaze out to the viewer in their fashionable attire. The middle sister holds a greyhound whose collar is inscribed 'B.T.', possibly in honour of Battista Tiepolo, the pater familias, who for unexplained reasons is absent from the family gathering.\nThe painting has in the past been attributed to Pietro Longhi. This surprising and untenable attribution was a result of an old inscription on the reverse of the canvas which is no longer visible but which was quoted in the 1951 exhibitions in London and Birmingham. A more plausible but equally incorrect attribution to Lorenzo Tiepolo, seen in the picture here sketching his mother, has also been proposed several times (see Literature). Though Lorenzo specialised in portraits, most often executed in pastel, his style has very little in common with that of the present work, whose animated brushwork is firmly rooted in the style of Giovanni Domenico. indeed Lorenzo's portrait of his mother from 1757, in the Ca' Rezzonico in Venice, shows just how far removed his approach to portraiture is to the present family portrait and to what extent his interpretation of his sitters' personality differed.1\nFurther evidence for Giovanni Domenico's authorship can be found in an energetic drawing of the artist seated at the far left (fig. 1) in the Museo Correr in Venice which is unquestionably by Giovanni Domenico. The drawing is incomplete, with the figure's physiognomy and hands left vague, all strong suggestions that this would have acted as an initial, preparatory sketch for the present painting. Thiem (see Literature), however, proposes a somewhat unlikely scenario in which Giovanni Domenico executed the drawing as a ricordo after the present painting, which the scholar ascribes to Lorenzo. Quite apart from the general unlikelihood of such a series of events, the artist depicted in the painting is clearly working in pastel, a medium favoured by Lorenzo and entirely unfamiliar to his older brother, Giovanni Domenico. While acknowledging these inconsistencies, Thiem nevertheless does not confront the question of how Giovanni Domenico would have been able to depict himself in profile. All evidence thus points to this being an exceptional group portrait by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.\n1 See J. Martineau and A. Robinson (eds), The Glory of Venice, exhibition catalogue, London 1994, p. 344, cat. no. 238, reproduced in colour.\nInscribed on the dog's collar: B.T.
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notes

Please note that this work is displayed in an Italian Salvator Rosa frame dating from the second half of the 17th century. This frame has been kindly lent to us by Arnold Wiggins & Sons. Should you wish to purchase it please contact the Old Master Paintings department.

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Giandomenico (Giovanni Domenico) Tiepolo

condition

The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The Tiepolo Family. B.T. inscribed on the dog's collar. This painting has had a quite recent lining and stretcher, with a restoration of the same period. The paint surface has been imprinted with the fairly distinctive Venetian texture of the canvas. The light paint layer seems to have been delicate, and perhaps became rather dry in its early life, with minute, slightly brittle, tiny lost flakes in places. However there is no sign of any present insecurity or fragility at all. Any past little lost flakes are scarcely visible even under ultra violet light, with just a few scattered touches apparently in the deep red background and minutely elsewhere, which have slightly darkened. The immediacy and vividness of the scene has been well preserved overall. This report was not done under laboratory conditions. "This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

dimensions

67 by 96 cm.; 26 3/8  by 37 3/4  in.

exhibition

London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Eighteenth Century Venice, 3 January – 14 March 1951, and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 21 March – 18 April, no. 57 (as by Pietro Longhi); Venice, Ca' Rezzonico, Mostra del Tiepolo, 16 June – 7 October 1951, no. 127 (as Lorenzo Tiepolo); London, Royal Academy, European Masters of the Eighteenth Century, 27 November 1954 – 27 February 1955, no. 319 (here and henceforth as by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo); On loan, Doncaster Museum, 1977–1993; Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, Le portrait en Italie au siècle de Tiepolo, 7 May – 5 September 1982, no. 49; London, Thos. Agnew & Son Ltd., Thirty-five paintings from the Collection of the British Rail Pension Fund, November – December 1984, no. 32. 

literature

Possibly G.F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, supplementary vol. IV, London 1857, p. 171 (as by Pietro Longhi); J. Byam Shaw in The Burlington Magazine, no. 575, vol. XCIII, February 1951, pp. 61–62, reproduced p. 60, fig. 27 (as by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo); F.J.B. Watson in The Burlington Magazine, no. 579, vol. XCIII, June 1951, p. 204 (as by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo); F.J.B. Watson in The Burlington Magazine, no. 587, vol. XCIV, February 1952, p. 44, note 10 (as by Giovanni Domenico); T. Pignatti in L’Arte, 1951, vol. 2, no. 4 (as by Lorenzo Tiepolo); A. Morassi, G.B. Tiepolo, London 1955, p. 13 (as by Lorenzo); C. Donzelli, I Pittori veneti del ’700, Florence 1957, p. 314 (as Lorenzo); J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, 1962, p. 83 under no. 54, and p. 85, no. 56 (as Giovanni Domenico); M. Precerutti-Garberi, ‘Segnalazioni Tiepolesche’, in Commentari, vol. XV, 1964, pp. 10–12 (as by Giovanni Domenico); G. Piovene & A. Pallucchini, L’Opera completa di Giambattista Tiepolo, Milan 1968, reproduced p. 83 (mentioning the various attributions); M. Muraro in Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi sul Tiepolo, Udine 1970, p. 72, reproduced fig. 8 (as by Lorenzo); A. Rizzi, Giambattista Tiepolo, exhibition catalogue, Udine 1971, pp. 183 and 185, reproduced fig. 113 (mentions the attributions to Lorenzo and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo); G. Knox, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo, A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings, Oxford 1980, vol. I, pp. 235, 303, cat. no. P.104 (as by Giovanni Domenico); M. Levey, G.B. Tiepolo, 1986, pp. 251–52, reproduced plate 216 (as by Giovanni Domenico); F. C. Thiem, ‘Lorenzo Tiepolos Position innerhalb der künstlerfamilie Tiepolo’, in Pantheon, 1993, vol. LI, pp. 141–42, reproduced plate 8, (as by Lorenzo); R. Pallucchini, La pittura nel Veneto, Il Settecento, Milan 1996, vol. II, p. 199, reproduced fig. 291 (as probably by Lorenzo); F. Pedrocco in Lorenzo Tiepolo e il suo tempo, exhibition catalogue, Milan 1997, p. 18, reproduced p. 19 (as by Lorenzo).

provenance

Possibly Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s wife, Cecilia Tiepolo; Edward Cheney, 4 Audley Square, London, and Badger Hall, Shropshire; His (deceased) sale, London, Christie’s, 29ff April 1885, lot 139, for 31 Guineas, to Davis (as P. Longhi); Archibald Philip (1847–1929), 5th Earl of Rosebery, Mentmore, Bedfordshire; By descent to Eva (1892–1987), Countess of Rosebery, widow of the 6th Earl; By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 24 March 1976, lot 11 (here and henceforth as by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo); Thence acquired by the British Rail Pension Fund; By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 5 July 1995, lot 52; Private collection, USA.

signedDate

Inscribed on the dog's collar: B.T.

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

Venice 1727 - 1804


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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