Art and irony in Giambattista Tiepolo’s caricatures

Writer and architect Camillo Boito was a fan of Giambattista Tiepolo’s “insolent imagination” and “miraculous abundance in composing” – as he described them.

Thus we can imagine that Boito enjoyed the great Venetian painter’s caricatures, which fit into a long tradition that in the 18th century had become a systematic artistic practice, and not just a casual experiment.

From the second half of the 1700s, Tiepolo (1696-1770) created approximately three hundred caricatures, portraying people from all walks of life, in every position, and from every angle: hunchbacks, drunkards, dandies, friars, and Venetian aristocrats with their typical dress sward and cape (called ‘baùta’ in the local dialect). He used his art to expose not the single individuals, who always remained anonymous, but their social classes.

Here is a collection of his best caricatures. They are all ironic, but never mean: after all, as novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, truth can be more cruel than caricature.

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