Although Giandomenico Tiepolo assisted his father in numerous decorative enterprises, his own talent lay in the depiction of contemporary life. The picture is one of Giandomenico's most evocative and appealing works. It shows an actress dancing with a young man wearing the traditional costume of the commedia dell'arte character Mezzetino.
A traveling troupe of commedia dell'arte actors entertains a party of Venetians enjoying a summer holiday on the mainland. Such performances often ended with a minuet, depicted here. The dancing couple may be the lovers Lelio and Isabella (sometimes called by other names), the only actors in the troupe who did not wear masks. Recognizable in the crowd of onlookers are other Commedia dell’arte characters: Columbine, the masked woman behind the dancers; Pulcinella, the man in white at center with a crooked nose and tall hat (a second Pulcinella is visible behind him); the Doctor, the sinister figure in a black robe and floppy hat; Coviello, the bass player at the right with feathers sprouting from his hat; Harlequin, the acrobat climbing the ladder leaning against one of the trees; and, possibly, Pasquariello, the masked man wearing a ruff and a close-fitting cap talking to the woman seated on the right.
Domenico also treated the dance theme in a fresco in the Foresteria of the Villa Valmarana, near Vicenza, and in three oil paintings: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona; Musée du Louvre, Paris; and sold, Christie's, London, December 6, 2007, no. 41. The Barcelona and Paris paintings have pendants showing a quack doctor advertising his wares in a Venetian square. The third work was formerly paired with a picture of dancing dogs (private collection). No record exists of a pendant for the MMA painting.
The Barcelona, Paris, and Valmarana paintings were executed before Domenico left Venice for Madrid in 1762. Domenico painted the third pair of canvases in Madrid during the 1760s. There is no firm evidence for dating the MMA painting, but it is related stylistically to the artist’s two Stories of Abraham in the Carandini collection, Rome, and the Encampment of Gypsies in the Landesmuseum in Mainz, which Domenico painted at Würzburg, sometime before he returned to Venice in 1753. The early dating of the MMA picture is supported by its German provenance, although there is a tradition within the Merck family of Darmstadt who formerly owned the work that it was acquired by Johann Heinrich Merck (1741–1791) in Italy (Albrecht 1963).
A related drawing by Domenico Tiepolo in the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London, shows a richly appointed Venetian interior with a couple dancing before a crowd of elegant people wearing three-cornered hats. On the verso is a black-chalk drawing of a carriage, very much like the one in the MMA painting. Because of the dancing woman’s coiffure, the sheet has been dated before 1760 (see James Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Domenico Tiepolo, London, 1962, pp. 47, 86, no. 62).
[2011; adapted from Fahy 2005]
Johann Heinrich Merck, Darmstadt (until d. 1791; ?purchased in Italy); the Merck family, Darmstadt (from 1791); Frau Caroline Reinhold-Merck (until 1963; sale, Sotheby's, London, July 3, 1963, no. 75, as "A Venetian Carnival Scene with Dancers," for £72,000 to Rosenberg and Stiebel for Wrightsman); Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1963–80; cat., 1973, no. 27)
New York. Frick Collection. "Domenico Tiepolo's Punchinello Drawings," January 22–March 30, 1980, not in catalogue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 23–April 27, 1997, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Watteau, Music, and Theater," September 22–November 29, 2009, no. 24.
Pompeo Molmenti. G. B. Tiepolo: la sua vita e le sue opere. Milan, , p. 206, ill. p. 204, as in the Merck collection, Darmstadt; calls it a copy with some variations after the painting formerly owned by Princess Matilde (now Musée du Louvre, Paris), attributing both pictures to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
Eduard Sack. Giambattista und Domenico Tiepolo: Ihr Leben und Ihre Werke. Hamburg, 1910, vol. 1, p. 120, pl. 111 (in reverse); vol. 2, p. 186, no. 311, calls it a free variant by Giovanni Battista of the painting now in the Louvre and dates it about 1760–61.
Pompeo Molmenti. Tiepolo: La vie et l'oeuvre du peintre. Paris, 1911, p. 162, pl. 165, suggests that it might be by Giovanni Domenico.
Verzeichnis der National Wertvollen Kunstwerke. Berlin, 1927, p. 10, no. 191, lists it as "Gesellschaftsstück" by Giovanni Battista in the collection of Frau Dr. C. E. Merck, Darmstadt.
Giulio Lorenzetti. Le feste e le maschere veneziane. Exh. cat., Ca' Rezzonico. Venice, 1937, p. 53, under nos. 5–6.
Hans W. Hegemann. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Berlin, 1940, p. 141, fig. 88, calls it a variation by Giovanni Battista of the carnival scenes in fresco in the guest house at Villa Valmarana.
Antonio Morassi. "Domenico Tiepolo." Emporium 93 (June 1941), pp. 271, 282 n. 7, attributes the carnival scenes, including this one, to Giavanni Domenico, associating them with his frescoes in the guest house at Villa Valmarana, two of which are signed.
Antonio Morassi. Tiepolo. Bergamo, 1943, pp. 33, 48, fig. 102, suggests that Giambattista and Giandomenico painted the picture in collaboration; dates it "1756 (?)".
Giulio Lorenzetti inMostra del Tiepolo. Exh. cat., Palazzo d'Italia ai Giardini and Ca' Rezzonico (Museo del Settecento Veneziano). Venice, 1951, p. 169, under nos. 119–20.
W. E. Suida and A. Lansford. The Samuel H. Kress Collection in the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art. New Orleans, 1953, p. 64, mention it as a variant of the Louvre composition, along with "The Minuet" from the studio of Giambattista, formerly in the collection of Colonel Robert Adeane, Cambridge, England.
F[rancisco]. J[avier]. Sánchez Cantón. La Colección Cambó. Barcelona, 1955, p. 77, mentions it in his discussion of "The Minuet" and "The Charlatan" in the Barcelona museum.
Antonio Morassi. "Giambattista Tiepolo's 'Girl with a Lute' and the Clarification of Some Points in the Work of Domenico Tiepolo." Art Quarterly 21 (Summer 1958), p. 186 n. 9, lists it among works he recently (1941) attributed to Domenico.
Mercedes Precerutti-Garberi. "Asterischi sull'attività di Domenico Tiepolo a Würzburg." Commentari 11 (1960), p. 277, fig. 13, suggests a date shortly before 1754, toward the end of Domenico's sojourn in Germany.
La peinture italienne au XVIIIe siècle. Exh. cat., Petit Palais. Paris, 1960, unpaginated, under no. 440, mentions it incorrectly as in the museum at Darmstadt, including it in a group of pictures, dating them about 1757 and attributing them to Domenico.
Antonio Morassi. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings of G. B. Tiepolo. London, 1962, p. 10, as by Domenico.
"Coup d'oeil sur les grandes ventes de la saison." L'Oeil nos. 103–4 (July–August 1963), pp. 42–43, fig. 1.
Elisabeth Albrecht. "'In der Allee'." Mercksche Familien-Zeitschrift 21 (September 1963), pp. 112–16, ill. opp. p. 112, states that according to family tradition Johann Heinrich Merck bought the picture in Italy; gives additional provenance information.
Mercedes Precerutti-Garberi. "Segnalazioni tiepolesche." Commentari 15 (July–December 1964), p. 253.
Claus Virch. "Dreams of Heaven and Earth: Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo in the Wrightsman Collection." Apollo 90 (September 1969), pp. 178–79, colorpl. I, suggests that Domenico painted it between 1757, the date of the Valmarana frescoes and of the related canvas in Barcelona, and 1762, when he left Venice for Madrid.
Adriano Mariuz. Giandomenico Tiepolo. Venice, , pp. 44, 48, 50, 130, colorpl. II (detail), pl. 81, calls it one of Giandomenico's youthful masterpieces and dates it in the mid-1750s.
Pierre Rosenberg inVenise au dix-huitième siècle. Exh. cat., Orangerie des Tuileries. Paris, 1971, p. 176, under no. 283, mentions it as a close variant of the painting by Domenico in the Louvre.
Adriano Mariuz. "Domenico Tiepolo e la civiltà veneta di villa." Celebrazioni tiepolesche: atti del Congresso internazionale di studi sul Tiepolo con un'appendice sulla mostra. Ed. Elettra Quargnal. [Milan], , p. 16, attributes it to Domenico, noting that paintings of this type derive from the fêtes champêtres of Watteau, Pater, and Lancret, which the artist would have known from engravings.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, pp. 258–68, no. 27, ill. p. 259 (color), figs. 1–6 (details), attributes it to Domenico, comparing it to his "Christ Healing the Blind" (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford) of 1754, and suggests that it could have been painted during the artist's sojourn in Würzburg (1750–53), which would explain the German provenance; calls it "probably one of the earliest of his paintings of Venetian everyday life"; notes that although the Paris and Barcelona versions of the composition both have pendants depicting a quack doctor, no pendant is known for the Wrightsman picture.
R. A. Cecil. "The Wrightsman Collection." Burlington Magazine 118 (July 1976), p. 518.
John Pope-Hennessy inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1979–1980. New York, 1980, pp. 42–43, ill. (color), dates it 1756 or earlier, when Domenico and his father were working at the Villa Valmarana.
George Knox. Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: A Study and Catalogue Raisonné of the Chalk Drawings. Oxford, 1980, vol. 1, p. 310, no. P.180, includes it in a checklist of paintings by Domenico.
Filippo Pedrocco. Disegni di Giandomenico Tiepolo. Milan, 1990, pp. 14–15.
Alessandro Ballarin inColección Cambó. Exh. cat., Museo del Prado. [Madrid], , pp. 346, 348, 350, 354, under no. 35.
Colin Harrison inThe Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Jane Martineau and Andrew Robison. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New Haven, 1994, p. 504, under no. 222.
Marina Magrini inSplendori del Settecento veneziano. Ed. Giovanna Nepi Sciré and Giandomenico Romanelli. Exh. cat., Ca' Rezzonico, Venice. Milan, 1995, p. 384, under nos. 98–99.
Adriano Mariuz inDomenico Tiepolo: Master Draftsman. Ed. Adelheid M. Gealt and George Knox. Exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum. Bloomington, 1996, p. 23, ill. (detail) [Italian ed., "Giandomenico Tiepolo, maestria e gioco: disegni dal mondo," Milan, 1996], believes the first idea for this subject may have come from the "Burlesque" tapestries made for the Residenz in Würzburg in 1740–45 which were based on drawings by the court painter Johann Rudolph Byss; calls this picture Domenico's earliest carnival scene.
Linda Wolk-Simon. "Domenico Tiepolo: Drawings, Prints, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Winter 1996/97), pp. 27–30, figs. 42–43 (color, overall and detail), and ill. on front cover (color detail), comments that the artist "captured not only the cultural aesthetic of 'villegiatura' [country holiday], but also the very essence of the commedia dell'arte tradition"; identifies the characters in the ranks of the commedia dell'arte as Punchinello, Harlequin, Columbine, Coviello, the Doctor, and possibly the Captain and Pasquariello, while noting that the pair of lovers on the right were often known as Lelio and Isabella.
George Knox inLe menuet di Lorenzo Tiepolo. Exh. cat., Château de Malbrouck, Manderen, France. n.p., 2001, pp. 24–25, dates it later than the related compositions in Barcelona and Paris, and a painting in a private collection, here attributed to Lorenzo Tiepolo.
Stéphane Loire inTiepolo: ironia e comico. Ed. Adriano Mariuz and Giuseppe Pavanello. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini. Venice, 2004, p. 149, under no. 96, dates it before the related pictures in Paris and Barcelona, which he assigns to 1754 and 1756 respectively.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 103–6, no. 30, ill. (color), notes that the handling is similar to the artist's "Stories of Abraham" (Carandini collection, Rome) and his "Encampment of Gypsies" (Landesmuseum, Mainz) painted during his time in Würzburg (1750–53); in addition to the fresco in the Villa Valmarana and the paintings in Paris and Barcelona, relates this picture to a "Minuet" with a pendant of "Dancing Dogs" (ex Mayer collection, Tarrytown, N.Y.; "Minuet" sold Christie's, London, December 6, 2007, no. 41).
Important Old Master & British Pictures. Christie's, London. December 6, 2007, p. 110, under no. 41, fig. 1, notes that although no pendant is known for this work, the three related pictures depicting the minuet (Paris, Barcelona, and lot no. 41) all had pendants.
Heidrun Ludwig. Die Gemälde des 18. Jahrhunderts im Landesmuseum Mainz. Mainz, 2007, pp. 290–92 nn. 1336–37, fig. 240, follows Fahy (2005) in relating it to the "Encampment of Gypsies" in Mainz and suggests that this picture is Domenico's first treatment of the subject and dates from the end of his time in Würzburg (1750–53).
Katharine Baetjer inWatteau, Music, and Theater. Ed. Katharine Baetjer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2009, pp. 70–71, no. 24, ill. (color).
Everett Fahy inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 32.
Marco Grassi. "The Passionate Eye." New Criterion 33 (December 2014), p. 18.
The presence of painted canvas wrapped round the stretcher suggests that the picture was originally about four centimeters higher and perhaps two and a half centimeters wider.