Giandomenico Tiepolo – Pulcinella in Love

14 Feb

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Pulcinella in love, 1797

As the eighteenth century drew to an end so did the life of the Venetian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo who died in 1804. In those last years, both of his life and of that wonderful century, he was obsessed with the figure of Pulcinella; the stock character of commedia dell’Arte who is an ugly clown dressed in baggy clothes with a big nose. Giandomenico was born in an artistic family, not only was his father the famous painter Giambattista Tiepolo but also his mother was the sister of the vedute painter Francesco Guardi. For the most of his life Giandomenico was in the shadow of his father, learning to paint from him and serving as his most faithful assistant and that is why is it especially interesting to see what themes Giandomenico was truly interested him. These frescoes you see here, originally painted for his summer villa Zianigo, taken off the walls in 1906 in order to be sold abroad, but in 1936 they were bought by the town of Venice and transferred to Ca’Rezzonico.

The frescoes were painted over a long stretch of time, from 1759 to 1797; the latter year was especially dark in the history of the Venetian Republic, and another interesting thing is that they were painted by the painter for the painter’s own interior and his own pleasure so we can safely assume that the style and motifs Giandomenico painted were completely what his heart desired. That makes it all the more interesting, to ponder on why he loved the grotesque clowns so much and why he portrayed them in so many different scenarios; in the fresco above we have the Pulcinella in love where the cheerful party of four figures is seen dancing their way through the landscapes, one step more and they would have stepped out from the fresco. A little dog is barking at them, but they aren’t the least bit concerned. A lady in a simple white gown is wearing the same masque with a big nose that the Pulcinella is wearing, and the figure behind him is holding a big bottle of wine. Pulcinella’s hand is unashamedly on the lady’s breast and no one seems to care about reality or propriety, life is to be lived and enjoyed, and who has time to be serious and contrite when there is so much fun to be had? The background shows a sky painted in soft blue and grey shades; the eternally sunny baby blue sky of the Rococo world where it never rains and the party never stops. These frescoes are not only the crown of Giandomenico’s career as an individual artist in his own right but also the crown of the Rococo spirit, painted at the dusk of the wonderful century. The vivacious, playful spirit makes these frescoes so alluring even today.

In another fresco we see Pulcinella departing for a trip and here it’s interesting that Giandomenico painted him with his back turned to us, showing off his hunch, that way the viewer is more curious because it seems the character in the fresco doesn’t care too much about him. The fresco bellow shows the acrobats in contorted poses and we can just imagine them doing their crazy show, we can almost hear the laughter of the audience and their sighs of wonder and joy, the lady in white tights holding a fan is a pretty sights and the Pulcinella looks especially grotesque, as he should look.

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Il casotto dei saltimbanchi, 1770

Giandomenico Tiepolo, The departure of Pulcinella, 1797

Giandomenico Tiepolo, The Pulcinella Swing, 1783

Giandomenico Tiepolo, The Triumph of Pulcinella, 1760-70

6 Responses to “Giandomenico Tiepolo – Pulcinella in Love”

  1. haoyando 14th Feb 2021 at 5:09 pm #

    The lady is wearing low high heels. LOL. I wonder if this is a masquerade ball of some sort.


  2. haoyando 14th Feb 2021 at 6:13 pm #

    Love the masquerade party. LOL.


    • Byron's Muse 14th Feb 2021 at 6:20 pm #

      I always wanted to attend a masquerade ball, to be someone else for the night, under a pretty mask…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sbmumford 14th Feb 2021 at 7:51 pm #

    Great post! I’ve always been a bit confused over how many Tiepolos there were, especially since stylistically they are so similar.
    A question: why Puccinella and not Puccinello? Not the masculine form for a man: Mario, not Maria?
    Lastly, do you know the artist Robert Taplin? he’s been making wonderful sculptures of Punch for several years now…



    • Byron's Muse 15th Feb 2021 at 6:06 pm #

      Hmm that’s an interesting question, I don’t really know, I don’t speak Italian, I read about the etymology of the name but couldn’t explanation for that. I haven’t heard of Robert Taplin before but I checked him out, thank you for your comment.


  4. corbetart 15th Feb 2021 at 12:56 am #

    This is so wonderful! The first painting, Pulcinella in love, was on the cover art of a recording I had of Robert Schumann’s Carnival, played by the blind pianist Bernard d’Ascoli (how the hell a blind pianist can play such a work will for ever remain a wonder to me), and I would gaze at that painting over and over again whilst listening to it. I’d never really taken a serious look at Giandomenico’s other work until now though. Absolutely wonderful! as is your analysis, too. I like how you made mention of the compositions, which are indeed outstanding. For example in that first painting, there is a sort of domino effect, with the long white hats in chaotic different directions, trailing off the canvas, as you pointed out. I also love how the artist did not shy away from some rather complex anatomical challenges, like the acrobats, though at the same time his mastery of anatomy was clearly limited (see the sleeping man in the Departure painting). But it is that limited knowledge of anatomy which gives his characters charm, as it does in say, Blake or Fuseli. Also very interesting what you said about these being frescoes for his own home, and therefore ”completely what his heart desired”. Love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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