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Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727-1804)
Property of a Private Collector
Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727-1804)

The Minuet

Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727-1804)
The Minuet
oil on canvas, unframed
13 1/8 x 19 ¼ in. (33.4 x 48.8 cm.)
Harald Bendixson, Roxley House, Hertfordshire; Christie’s, London, 5 July 1929, lot 147, sold with its pendant (1,950 gns. to Destramm).
with Wildenstein, Paris and New York, until at least 1938.
Maurice de Rothschild (1881-1957), Paris, from whom purchased in circa 1952 by,
Dr. and Mrs. Edgar Mayer, Tarrytown, New York, and by descent to,
Cecile Lehman Mayer, Tarrytown, New York, and by descent to,
Susan Lehman Cullman, New York, and by descent to,
Anonymous sale [The Property of a Private Collector]; Christie’s, London, 6 December 2007, lot 41, where acquired by the present owner.
A.C., 'Venezia: La Mostra delle feste maschere veneziane', Emporium, July 1937, LXXXVI, p. 397.
M. Goering, 'Domenico Tiepolo', Thieme-Becker Künstlerlexicon, Leipzig, 1939, XXXIII, p. 273.
A. Morassi, 'Domenico Tiepolo', Emporium, June 1941, pp. 271 and 273.
G. Fiocco, 'Tiepolo in Spagna', Le Arti, October 1942, pp. 9-10, as 'Giambattista Tiepolo'.
A. Morassi, 'Una mostra del Settecento a Detroit', Arte Veneta, 1953, p. 54, as 'Domenico'.
A. Morassi, A complete catalogue of the paintings of G.B. Tiepolo, London, 1962, p. 35, as 'Domenico'.
J. Byam-Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, London, 1962, pp. 14-15.
A. Mariuz, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Venice, 1971, pp. 129-30, no. 193.
A. Rizzi, Mostra del Tiepolo, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 1971, p. 167, fig. 106.
E. Fahy (ed.), The Wrightsman Pictures, New Haven and London, 2005, under cat. no. 30, pp. 104-6, note 2.
Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Feste e maschere veneziane, 6 May-31 October 1937, no. VII.5, as ‘Giambattista Tiepolo’.
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Loan exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints of the two Tiepolos: Giambattista and Giandomenico, 4 February-6 March 1938, no. 26, as ‘Giambattista Tiepolo’.
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Venetian painting from the fifteenth century through the eighteenth century, 25 June-24 July 1938, no. 63, as ‘Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’.
Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Venice 1700-1800: An exhibition of Venice and the Eighteenth Century, 30 September-2 November 1952, no. 71, as ‘Giambattista Tiepolo’.
Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Institute, Pictures of Everyday Life. Genre Painting in Europe 1550-1900, 14 October-12 December 1954, no. 48, as ‘Giambattista Tiepolo’.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this lot is sold unframed which is not stated in the printed catalogue.

Lot Essay

The eighteenth century witnessed a second Golden Age of Venetian culture; though the city was no longer a great political power, it had re-emerged as an artistic capital, home to Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Giambattista Piazzetta, and Giambattista Piranesi. Its greatest artistic dynasty of the time, though, was the Tiepolo family workshop, in which the young Giandomenico trained under his father Giambattista and travelled with him to assist on vast decorative commissions in Wurzburg (1750-1752) and Madrid (1762-1770). In these early years, Giandomenico’s style was meant to blend seamlessly with that of his father, and some of his youthful works are barely distinguishable from Giambattista’s. Indeed, this picture and its pendant, I Cani Sapienti (The Dancing Dogs) (fig. 1), which most recently sold at Christie’s, New York, 29 January 2014, lot 12, $3,637,000), were for many years thought to be by the elder Tiepolo.

However, whereas Giambattista specialised in grand-manner decorative schemes and altarpieces with mythological and biblical subjects, after about the age of 30, Giandomenico began to mark out for himself a personal artistic identity by showing scenes of everyday life, and he gradually developed a distinctive style. In 1757 he collaborated with his father on the decoration of the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza, frescoing in the Foresteria (or guesthouse) pastoral subjects, chinoiseries and humorous, closely observed episodes from contemporary country life and the Venetian theatre that differed notably from the grandiose paintings illustrating episodes from Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered with which Giambattista decorated the walls of the main villa.

This picture, generally known as The Minuet, depicts a group of elegantly attired Venetians dancing and flirting in the countryside. Several of them wear masks, probably indicating that they are performers in one of the travelling troupes of actors from the Commedia dell’Arte. Venetians of all classes wore masks during Carnival, which was a winter celebration that began on St. Stephen’s Day, 26 December; here the scene seems to take place in warmer, sunnier months. During the summer, Venetians customarily went on villeggiatura, holiday time on their country estates. Commedia dell’arte troupes frequently enjoyed aristocratic patronage, and in the Veneto were housed during the summer at the estates of the nobles they entertained. In Giandomenico’s picture it appears that an itinerant troupe of players is concluding its morning’s entertainment (these performances could occur at any time of day) with the traditional minuet; a small dog watches, and two local girls - wearing kerchiefs and rustic clothing - join in with a jig. Laughing, smiling, luminous in the sunshine, colourfully dressed and arrested in an instant of lively movement by the artist’s brush, Giandomenico’s country revellers perfectly embody the aesthetic of eighteenth-century villeggiatura: they are the essence of summer holiday-making.

The Minuet is one of a small group of elegant genre paintings - many of them depicting country dances - that seem intimately connected to Giandomenico’s work at the Foresteria at Villa Valmarana, and in particular his Minuet with Pantalon and Columbine fresco. These works are generally dated from immediately before the Foresteria decorations of 1757 to just after Giandomenico’s arrival in Spain in his father’s entourage in 1762, and represent Giandomenico’s first truly original, independent paintings. There are three other variations on the theme of The Minuet, each larger in scale than this canvas: one, in the Museu National d’Art de Catalunya, Cambo Bequest, is paired with a pendant depicting a quack doctor that is dated ‘1756’; another, known as A Dance in the Country, is in the Wrightsman Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig. 2); and The Minuet in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 3), which is paired with a canvas portraying a quack dentist.

In size, they are close to other small-scale genre scenes made by Giandomenico in the late 1750s and early 1760s, including two depictions of The Charlatan (both measuring 35 x 57 cm.; one sold Sotheby’s, New York, 30 January 1997, lot 97; the other sold Christie’s, New York, 6 April 2006, lot 86). James Byam-Shaw (op. cit.) first suggested that the present painting showed ‘more than a hint of Spanish taste in the costume of the more elegant spectators’, and subsequently all scholars have dated it to early in Giandomenico’s Spanish period, around 1762. Giandomenico would bring his career to a glorious conclusion with his celebrated suite of wash drawings of Scenes of Everyday Life in Venice and the Veneto, elaborate sketches that revisit the themes he first explored in paintings such as The Minuet.

Along with its pendant, this picture was formerly in the collection of Cecile Lehman Mayer, née Cecile Seligman, who in 1912 married Harold Lehman. Harold’s grandfather, Mayer Lehman, was one of the co-founders of the financial firm Lehman Brothers. Robert Lehman, whose legacy as a giant of the banking world is rivalled only by the importance of his art collection, bequeathed over 3,000 objects to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1975, to be housed in a special wing built specifically for the collection. Giandomenico Tiepolo was among Robert Lehman’s favorite artists – his collection of drawings by Giandomenico remains one of the largest ever assembled in private hands. It is likely that Cecile Seligman, who knew Robert Lehman through her marriage to his cousin, would have been exposed to Robert’s collection and to his tastes.

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