Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo: 104-teiliger Zyklus zum Leben des Pulcinella ("Divertimento per li ragazzi"), Zeichnungen, ca. 1797
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo was seventy when he began to draw his cycle of scenes from the life of Pulcinella, which he recommended on a title page for the 'Divertimento per li regazzi' ('Entertainment for Children'). Like his fellow characters, Pulcinella, a popular commedia dell'arte figure from Naples, is typified by a humped back and an eye-catching costume. Without any reference guidelines, the artist thought up over 100 episodes to portray all aspects of Pulcinella's turbulent life, from his parents' marriage and the birth of the protagonist up to his death. Tiepolo's Pulcinella series first caught the attention of the art world in 1920, when it was put up for auction in London. At the same time, the compositional and topical autonomy of the individual large-format sheets led to the collection being divided up. If we take into account the sequence intended for the numbering of the drawings, then the sheet 'Pulcinella's Father Brings Home His Bride' originally occupied fourth position. Like all the other scenes, it is executed with pen and brush in nuanced shades of brown. The event is presented as if on a stage. The foreground is dominated by a row of figures portrayed somewhat irritatingly from the back. In the middle of the closely packed entourage we can make out the ill-matched bridal couple. The bizarre figure of the bridegroom disappears behind the beauty of the bride, who is characterised above all by her clothing and demeanour, which radiate dignity and charm. The background is intentionally flat and lives, like the drawing as a whole, from the painterly qualities of the wash technique which Tiepolo has applied in a differentiated manner and with masterly skill.
In contrast to his father, Giovanni Battista, who had already explored the figure of Pulcinella, Giovanni Domenico used the antics of the burlesque figure as a satirical reflection of society. This can already be sensed in his frescos for the 'Camera dei Pagliacci' at the family villa in Zianigo (1793; Ca' Rezzonico, Venice), but above all in the 'Pulcinella' drawings he made there. These masked inventions, created for his own pleasure, contain more or less overt mocking references in an incomparable manner.
The indirect pictorial language of these late drawings by Tiepolo herald the fundamental historical change at the end of the eighteenth century, as do the 'Caprichos' (1799) of Goya, whose critical social comments were distributed in Spain at around the same time in the form of prints.