Punchinello Is Helped to a Chair
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Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
Italian, Italy, about 1791
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, and black chalk
13 15/16 x 18 1/2 in.

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In his distinctive black mask, Punchinello totters shakily toward a chair with the help of an attendant and a long cane. A comic character in Italian theater, his humpback, hooked nose, and stupidity made him the focus of much humor in the commedia dell'arte and other popular entertainments. Other characters, also wearing masks, stand around watching the scene, preparing a chair for the weary Punchinello and fetching an umbrella.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo produced this drawing as part of a series of 103 works dealing with specific episodes in the life of Punchinello, entitled Divertimento per li ragazzi (Diversions for Children). The scenes, whose themes range from amusement to tragedy, illuminate the complex character of the hunchbacked fool. As a testament to Tiepolo's fondness for this subject, he decorated his family home, Villa Ziani, with images from the series.

Tiepolo sketched the drawing first in black chalk, which was easy to change, before drawing in the figures with pen, ink, and brown wash. The numerous black chalk lines that still remain suggest that the artist made several changes to the design before he settled on this scene.

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