Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, Venice 1696–1770 Madrid)
Pen and brown ink, gray wash, with splashes of brown wash on the left, over black chalk
17 11/16 x 12 3/16 in. (45 x 31 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Not on view
The celebrated Venetian painter, etcher, and draftsman Giambattista Tiepolo is best known for his theatrically painted ceilings. This sheet represents a lesser known side of Tiepolo’s production: his designs for metalwork. Formerly identified as a study for a fountain, this drawing is now thought to represent a design for an inkstand, possibly in silver, viewed slightly from below and to the left of its central axis. Two goose quill pens emerge from conical shell holders behind the two figures of mermaids, whose tails serve as support stands for the object. The central figure, holding a torch and a book, represents Sapienza, or knowledge. The drawing probably dates to the 1740s, when the artist produced other designs for silver.
Armand-Louis de Mestral de Saint-Saphorin; Paul Wallraf, London. Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1962.