Historical significance: Giambattista was one of the most renowned painters of eighteenth-century Italy. He studied in the workshop of Gregorio Lazzarini. However Tiepolo moved away from the classicising style of his master, creating instead works with a focus on tonal qualities in the manner employed by his contemporaries Giambattista Piazzetta and Giovanni Battista Pittoni. This follows in the tradition of the sixteenth-century artist Tiepolo. Tiepolo began his career painting a series of canvases depicting Prophets and Apostles for S Maria dei Derelitti, Venice, in 1715-16. He is documented on the register of the Venetian confraternity of painters in the following year. By the 1720’s Tiepolo’s success at home brought many commissions from outside Venice. Between 1725-6 he worked in Udine, on a scheme of frescoes for the Patriarchal Palace (now the Archbishop’s Palace) for the Patricarch Dionsio Dolfin. In 1730-31 Tiepolo worked in Milan producing works including frescoes for five ceilings in the Palazzo Archinto. During the 1740s, Tiepolo was at the height of his fame. He produced paintings indcluding the Family of Darius before Alexander (1743) and the frescoes of The meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra and The Banquet of Anthony and Cleopatra for the Palazzo Labia, Venice. From 1750-3 Tiepolo worked in Würzburg on a commission for frescoes of the ceiling and walls for the Kaisersaal of the Residenz at Würzburg. Again in Venice, Tiepolo became the president of the Venetian Academy in 1756. In March, 1762, Tiepolo was summoned by Charles III of Spain (reigned 1759-88) to paint three ceiling frescoes in the Palacio Real, Madrid. He travelled that year with his sons, Giandomenico and Lorenzo, to work on the project. He was to remain in Spain until his death in 1770. Tiepolo’s works ranged from frescoes and paintings on canvas of histories, mythologies and religious subjects. As well as these works, which were the result of commissions from patrons, Tiepolo also produced a series of etchings. Tiepolo was an expert printmaker. His output can be seen in the two main groups of etchings that he produced, the Capricci, a group of ten prints, and the 24 Scherzi di fantasia. Stylistically these works probably date to the 1730s or 1740s. This drawing relates to no known finished work by the artist. This drawing allows the artist to study the forms of two turbans. Tiepolo was particularly interested in different costume, studying Roman antique examples, dress from paintings by sixteenth century Venetian Masters including Veronese, as well as this Middle Eastern dress. Many of his paintings are populated with figures in costume deriving from one of these types of dress. Here Tiepolo works in pen and ink and grey wash to produce a highly finished study of the heads of two men wearing turbans. Lines of pen and ink are used to suggest the outline of the turbans, the figure’s beard, whilst wash has been applied to give form and depth to the composition. Pen is used to observe details such as the wrinkles around the eyelids of the foreground figure and the joints of his fingers, which rest upon a staff.
Location: Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case PD, shelf 316