The jesters and buffoons in Tiepolo’s “Scherzi”

"Bacchante, Satyr, and Faun"

The “Scherzi di fantasia” are etchings Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) created from 1743 on, and are best enjoyed while reading art historian Giulio Carlo Argan’s opinion about the great Venetian artist’s recurrent themes:

“They are religious, historical, mythological, allegorical subjects: while treated pompously, with every consideration, it is immediately obvious that the artist is indifferent to religious themes, considers history like gibberish, laughs of myths and has fun with allegories.”

“The characters that the artist gathers in flamboyant costumes under the false names of kings and queens of antiquity are buffoons and masked jesters, just as ambiguous – despite their appearance – as Magnasco’s demonic monks and gypsies” (translated from “Storia dell’arte italiana”, Sansoni, Florence 1968).

The “Scherzi” – which are some of the master’s most famous etchings, with the “Capricci” – were published after Tiepolo’s death, in the last quarter of the 1700s, by his son Giandomenico (1727-1804), also a painter.

The etchings, of course, are devoid of the color exaggerations that Argan appreciates in Tiepolo’s paintings; but the “great theater of the world”, to say it with Calderón, maintains in them its dizzying effect.

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February 6, 2017