Tiepolo's Magician: Our Drawing of the Week

In the weeks leading up to Christmas 2013, for one morning per week, you can see a print or drawing from our collection in the intimate setting of our Print Study Room. Next up is Tiepolo’s ‘A Magician (?) surrounded by a a group of figures’. 

Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings, Prints and Drawings Study Room Assistant, explains why she chose this drawing and what it means to her. You can see the drawing for yourself on  Wednesday 27 November, 10am-12.3opm. 

I first discovered the rich collection of prints and drawings at The Courtauld when studying for a Masters there in 2005. I found it really inspiring to work directly with this collection that covers such a broad period in the history of art; from the Renaissance through to the present day.

After leaving The Courtauld I worked at the V&A as Assistant Curator of Paintings and Drawings. This September I returned to The Courtauld to begin my PhD on early 16th-century Italian prints and drawings. I am delighted that I am also able to return as Print Room Assistant and work once again with the collection.

My favourite display that I curated whilst at the V&A was Venetian Visions. This showcased Venetian art, and in particular prints and drawings, from 1703-1797.

Although I knew Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s paintings from trips to Venice and the Veneto, it was only through working on Venetian Visions that I discovered the artist’s drawings.

Tiepolo is a particularly interesting draughtsman.

He used drawings to develop designs for paintings and sculpture as well as compositional studies. These drawings reflect the artist’s mastery of different media and create powerful images, described by one contemporary as ‘all spirit and fire’.

I’ve chosen this drawing as I feel it exemplifies Tiepolo as a draughtsman.

The identity of the figure in a turban is unclear. He occurs frequently in Tiepolo’s work and is often interpreted as a magician.

Tiepolo's drawing of A Magician (?) surrounded by a group of figures

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,
A Magician (?) surrounded by a group of figures,
1730-1740

Figures group around the magician, who points down to the lower centre of the sheet. Rapid lines of pen and wash emphasise his powerful gesture. Fluent pen strokes capture the figures that huddle together, looking down to where the hand points.

The arrangement of the figures recalls that of A Magician pointing to a burning head from the series Tiepolo’s of etchings, the Scherzi di Fantasia.

This drawing may be an early sketch for that etching. The Scherzi di Fantasia often show mysterious figures wearing classical and oriental costume gathered around a magician. The exact meaning of these etchings is still unknown.

For me, both his drawings and etchings provide an intimate insight into Tiepolo’s working process and inventive mind.

You can see Bryony’s choice this Wednesday 27 November 2013, 10am – 12.30pm.

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