Domenico (also known as Giovanni Domenico or Giandomenico) was the son of Giambattista Tiepolo. He trained with his father in the early 1740s and worked with him as an assistant and collaborator throughout the latter’s life, as well as working as an independent master.
When Giambattista was invited to Madrid in 1762 Domenico accompanied him and assisted with fresco decorations in the Royal Palace. After his father’s death in 1770 Domenico returned to Venice and there became a prominent artist in his own right, working in a style dependent on but not wholly subservient to his father’s. He was elected president of the Venetian Academy in 1780 and around this time painted The apotheosis of a pope and martyr 1780-5, which may have been a sketch for a ceiling decoration destined for the church of San Lio in Venice.
In 1783 he was in Genoa to paint fresco decorations in the Council Hall of the Doge’s Palace. From the start he was a rigorous and prolific draughtsman producing large quantities of both drawings and etchings. In the 1790s he was preoccupied with completing the fresco decoration of the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo.
Among his most individual works are a series of 104 drawings depicting the experiences of the ‘everyman’ figure Punchinello, which were made when he was an old man after the fall of Venice to Napoleon in 1797. Pinchinello, a humpbacked, potbellied figured with a beaky mask who wears a baggy white tunic and a sugar-loaf hat was traditionally a coarse character from the commedia dell’arte who epitomised the baseness of human nature. In England he was the origin of Mr Punch in the Punch and Judy Show. The lion’s cage c1800 is one of six depicting Punchinello at the circus. It shows a group of punchinellos listening to a lion keeper.