Giandomenico Tiepolo, Pulcinella, and the powers that be

Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727-1804), son of the more famous Giambattista, celebrate Pulcinella in a number of paintings and drawings.

Pulcinella is a traditional Neapolitan mask who mocks and derides the powerful and finds odd solutions to apparently impossible quandaries. He was one of the subjects portrayed in the frescoes Tiepolo painted in two periods, between 1759 and 1797, for the family villa in his hometown, Zianigo, Venice (currently kept at the Ca’ Rezzonico Museum in Venice). Pulcinella was also central in the series of 104 drawings titled “Divertimento per li regazzi” (“Fun for Kids”) that Tiepolo created in the late 18th century.

This extravagant character of the Commedia dell’Arte – ambiguous, two-faced, elusive, sarcastic – effectively voiced the crisis that European society suffered at the time, caught between the end of the Ancien Régime and high expectations for a new world, fueled by the French revolution.

Today, Pulcinella continues to look at the powers that be with irony and diffidence, always ready to expose the rhetoric of what Leopardi called “magnifiche sorti e progressive” – the blind belief in humanity’s destiny to make great progresses.

"Pulcinella e i saltimbanchi" (1791-1793), Ca' Rezzonico

"Pulcinella and the Acribats" (1791-1793), Ca' Rezzonico

"Il trionfo di Pulcinella" (1696-1770), Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenaghen

"The Triumph of Pulcinella" (1696-1770), detail, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

"Il trionfo di Pulcinella" (1696-1770), Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenaghen

"The Triumph of Pulcinella" (1696-1770), Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

"Pulcinella innamorato" (1797), Ca' Rezzonico

"Pulcinella in Love" (1797), Ca' Rezzonico

La partenza di Pulcinella (1797) Ca' Rezzonico

"Pulcinella's Departure" (1797), Ca' Rezzonico

"Il Ciarlatano" (1754-1755), Louvre, Parigi

"The Charlatan" (1754-1755), Louvre, Paris

"Pulcinella Faints in the Street", detail, from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella sviene sulla strada", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella Faints in the Street", from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella corteggiatore", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Courting Pulcinella", detail, from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella corteggiatore", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Courting Pulcinella", from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella taglialegna", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Lumberjack Pulcinella", from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Il padre di Pulcinella e sua moglie", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella's father and wife", from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella impara a camminare", da "Divertimento per li regazzi"

"Pulcinella Learns to Walk", from "Divertimento per li regazzi"

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