(Italy 30 Aug 1727 – 03 Mar 1804)
35.3 x 46.8 cm sheet; 52.0 x 63.0 x 2.5 cm frame
This sheet belongs to the famous set of 104 drawings devoted to the life and times of Punchinello, the popular Neapolitan character of the 'commedia dell'arte'. Punchinello is the hunch-backed, pot-bellied figure with a beaky mask who wears a baggy white tunic and a sugar-loaf hat.
The series, which Domenico drew towards the very end of his life at around the turn of the 19th century, was conceived with a title page 'Divertimento per li regazzi' (An entertainment for children). Regarded as Domenico's greatest achievement as a draughtsman, the set was unknown until it appeared at a Sotheby's auction in 1920. It remained intact for only a brief time before the drawings were resold in Paris in 1921 and then scattered throughout the museums and private collections of the world.
This sheet is one of a sequence of six on the theme of Punchinello at the circus, all of which feature the same backdrop of a fence made of rough planks. It shows a group of Punchinellos listening to the lion keeper as he shows off the animal in his charge. The audience also includes two ladies together with a small pet dog, who approaches with caution.
Domenico had already treated the subject of Punchinello in the frescoes of the Tiepolo family's villa at Zianigo, which he painted 1793-97 (now Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice). This sheet was adapted from one of his earlier scenes of contemporary Venetian life which represents two clerics and five gentlemen, and a rather less daunted child ('The Lion's Cage' 1791, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers
Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax collection of old masters, Sydney, 1992. no catalogue numbers
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1994, Sydney, 1994, 44.
Richard Beresford and Peter Raissis, The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Sydney, 2003, 192 (colour illus.). cat.no. 56
Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 122 (colour illus.).
Adelheid Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo: the Punchinello drawings, New York, 1986, 183. no. 84
Indiana University Art Museum, Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello drawings, 1979, 134. cat.no. S55
Philip Wilson and Alison Brand, Art at auction, London, 1967, 110, 111 (illus.).
Unknown exhibition, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Paris, 1921–1921
Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello drawings, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1979–1979
The James Fairfax collection of old masters, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Apr 1992–14 Jun 1992
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994
The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Apr 2003–20 Jul 2003
Old Europe: Prints & drawings from the collection 1500-1800, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jun 2006–06 Aug 2006