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Punchinelli preparing a meal of gnocchi and parmesan cheese

  • Listed: January 1, 1970 12:00 am
  • Title: Punchinelli preparing a meal of gnocchi and parmesan cheese
  • Artist: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
  • Origins:
  • Format (cm): 19.7 x 28.6 cm.
  • Format (in): 7¾ x 11¼ in.
  • Material:
  • Last Sale price: 542 500,00
  • Last Sale date:
Punchinelli preparing a meal of gnocchi and parmesan cheese


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid) Punchinelli preparing a meal of gnocchi and parmesan cheese black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash 7¾ x 11¼ in. (19.7 x 28.6 cm.)
Dominique-Vivant, baron Denon (L.779). with Colnaghi, London, 1972, where acquired by Eugene Chesrow.
Cambridge, Mass., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, and New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Tiepolo and his circle: drawings in American collections , 1996, no. 79.
There are just over two dozen documented drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo of Punchinello, the buffoon character that originated in 17th Century popular theatrical productions or commedia dell’arte . Tiepolo seems to have developed the subject of Punchinelli beginning in the 1730s and then intermittently through the early 1760s, mostly in drawings, and also in at least two paintings and etchings. Unlike his son Domenico whose Divertimento per li Regazzi show Punchinelli engaging in a wide range of every day activities, Tiepolo père almost exclusively depicts his Punchinelli making, eating, over-eating and suffering the consequences of over-eating gnocchi. It is believed that the subject of gnocchi consumption was related to a regional festival, venerdì gnoccolare , which took place in Verona on the last Friday of Carnival. Young boys from the poor district of San Zeno dressed in costume convened in front of the Palazzo del Podestà and invited the mayor to the town square for a glass of wine and a dish of gnocchi, after which the entire town drank and ate until dawn. From this tradition Giambattista was inspired to create, if not quite a narrative, then certainly a related series about gnocchi and Punchinelli. The present drawing is among the finest and most elaborate dedicated to the subject of Punchinelli preparing and serving gnocchi. The translucent washes are subtly deployed, complemented by strong pen contours, and black chalk is used not just as underdrawing but also as accents around the facemasks of the figures. The animated, perhaps even slightly menacing group of figures in their conical hats, beaked masks and white, ruffle-collared costumes crowd forward towards a seated Punchinello, his right side in shadow from the fire. One Punchinello offers a hunk of parmesan cheese on a plate, while another stirs the gnocchi with a long fork in a traditional earthenware vessel with ear-shaped handles which mimics the conical hats of the Punchinelli. This drawing is among the most ambitious of the series. Only two drawings, one formerly in the Oppenheimer Collection (G. Knox, ‘The Punchinello drawings of Giambattista Tiepolo’, in Interpretazioni veneziane: studi di storia dell’arte in onore de Michelangelo Muraro , D. Rosand, ed., Venice, 1984, p. 440, fig. 5) and another in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris that shows a Punchinello prostrate in front of the pot of gnocchi ( Les dessins vénitiens des collections de l’Ecole des Beau-Arts , exhib. cat., Paris, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, 1990, pp. 106-07, no. 51) are comparable in the degree of finish and the number of figures. In addition, there is a sheet of similar composition with fewer figures – four around the pot of gnocchi serving three seated Punchinelli – in the Art Institute of Chicago ( Tiepolo and his circle , op. cit. , 1996, pp. 216-17, no. 17). It seems unlikely that Tiepolo conceived these drawings as a cohesive series like Domenico’s Divertimento per li Regazzi (A. Gealt, Domenico Tiepolo. The Punchinello drawings , New York, 1986) given the span of time in which he is thought to have executed them. However, he does seem interested in a narrative arc or serial story-telling, with the present drawing and the Oppenheimer, Paris and Chicago examples of festive consumption towards the beginning. The adverse consequences of overeating gnocchi or gnoccolonità preoccupied him as well, and there are sheets of individual Punchinello both standing up and lying down, bellies distended, as well as in clear gastrointestinal distress, and ev

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