Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
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Formerly in the collection of the late Mrs. Vincent Astor
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)

Three studies of a donkey

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid)
Three studies of a donkey
red and white chalk
12 1/4 x 18 3/4 in. (31 x 47.6 cm)
Possibly acquired from the artist's studio by Armand-François-Louis de Mestral de Saint-Saphorin (1738-1805), Vienna and by descent to Madeleine and Marguerite de Mestral, Saint-Saphorin-sur-Morges, Switzerland;
Dr. Édouard de Cérenville (1875-1968), Lausanne;
with Rudolph J. Heinemann (1901-1975), Lausanne and New York, by 1916-1917.
with Mathias Komor (1909-1985), New York.
Mrs. Vincent Astor (1902-2007), New York, her stamp on the back of the mount (not in Lugt), and by descent to the present owner.
G, Knox, 'Review of A. Morassi, The Paintings by G.B. Tiepolo', The Burlington Magazine, CV, no. 724, July 1963, p. 328, fig. 57.
G. Knox, 'Tiepolo Drawings from the Saint-Saphorin Collection', in E. Quargnal, ed., Atti del Congresso internazionale di studi sul Tiepolo con un'appendice sulla Mostra, Milan, 1971, pp. 58-63, fig. 15.
G. Knox, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings, Oxford, 1980, I, no. K21, II, pl. 265.
Venice, Ca' Rezzonico and Palazzo ai Giardini, Mostra del Tiepolo, 1951, no. 70 (entry by G. Lorenzetti).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co. Gallery, Great Master Drawings of Seven Centuries. A Benefit Exhibition of Columbia University for the Scholarship Fund of the Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology, 1959, no. 38, pl. XXXVIII (entry by W. Hinkle).

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Lot Essay

Rarely seen in public since its first appearances at the 1951 Tiepolo exhibition in Venice, this remarkable sheet is part of a small group of preparatory drawings executed by Giovanni Battista during the last decade of his life, spent in Spain between 1762 and 1770.
Portrayed by the artist with vivid naturalism, the Spanish donkey (burro) was precisely linked by Morassi and Knox to a suite of late canvases representing the Flight into Egypt painted by Tiepolo in Madrid and now divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the Bellagio Study Center – The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Museo de Arte Antigua in Lisbon (K. Christiansen in Giambattista Tiepolo, 1696-1770, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996, nos. 57a-d, ill.). While the central and the right-hand animals connect to the paintings in Bellagio and Lisbon respectively, the donkey drawn at far left was used by Tiepolo to accompany the Holy Family both in the painting recently bequeathed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by the late Jayne Wrightsman (fig.) and in the canvas in Stuttgart.
Based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew (2:13-15), the subject of the Flight into Egypt was one of Tiepolo’s favorite, from his earliest paintings of the 1720’s to the very last years of his life, as attested by the works mentioned above. In a spirit of constant exchange between the master and his talented son, Domenico, the series reflects ideas and elements developed by the latter in a series of twenty-four etchings titled Idee pittoresche sopra la fuga in Egitto (Pictorial ideas on the Flight into Egypt) published in 1753. Nevertheless, Tiepolo’s highly evocative journey of the Holy Family translates the artist’s observations from his own journey from Venice to Madrid that took him across the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Remarkable for its size and poignant realism, this drawing, formerly in the collection of Brooke Astor, represents a highlight of Tiepolo’s graphic production in Spain, which remains extremely rare in contrast to the multitude of drawings dating from his years in Venice and Würzburg. Although losses might be taken into account, the scarcity of drawings suggests Tiepolo’s smaller workshop in Madrid, with Domenico and Lorenzo only, in which didactic activity and drawing practice was minimal. Exhibiting all the qualities of Tiepolo’s late chalk drawings – remarkable plasticity, vitality and control of the medium – the Astor sheet can be compared only to a handful of some lively red chalk sheets, like those executed for the paintings in the conventual church of San Pascual at Aranjuez, a Royal commission (see Knox, op. cit., II, figs. 261, 264).

Fig. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Flight into Egypt, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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