Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Punchinello Carried off by a Centaur, pen and ink sketch


British Museum

British Museum

Punchinello is the name of a clown character taken from the Italian comic theatre tradition, the commedia dell'arte. Instantly identifiable by his white costume and big hooked nose, Punchinello, or Mr Punch as he is known in English, is one of Domenico Tiepolo's most memorable heroes. He is lazy, full of mischief and gets into terrible adventures from which he is rescued.This drawing in pen and ink and brown wash shows Punchinello being carried off on the back of a rearing centaur (half man and half horse). He is pursued by a bare-footed woman in a head scarf, her face unseen, and her arms waving wildly in the air. The artist and clown mock the classical scene in which a centaur carries off a woman and is pursued by a hero. The most famous classical occurrence was when Deianira, wife of the Greek hero, Hercules, was carried off by Nessus the centaur.In the 1790s, Tiepolo (1727-1804) painted a series of frescoes including a Punchinello room in the family's Villa Zianigo and now in the Ca' Rezzonico, Venice. Later he made a series of one hundred and four drawings of the adventures of his anti-hero. These highly worked drawings were entitled Divertimento per gli Ragazzi ('Amusement for the Young'). Their purpose was the mockery of the classical tradition and the enjoyment of the theatrical escapades of the clown.

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  • Title: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Punchinello Carried off by a Centaur, pen and ink sketch
  • Date Created: 1791/1804
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 355.00mm; Width: 474.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: classical mythology; centaur
  • Registration number: 1925,0406.1
  • Producer: Drawn by Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Owen, Richard. Previous owner/ex-collection Anonymous