Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727–1804 Venice)
Christ and the Centurion of Capernaum, ca. 1786–90
Pen and brown ink, orange-brown wash, and black chalk over a black chalk underdrawing on off-white laid paper
19 5/16 × 15 1/8 in. (490 × 384 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
Giandomenico Tiepolo produced three large suites of drawings. By far the most extensive is one of 314 sheets of paper that depicts the history of early Christianity, starting with Joachim and Anne and continuing through the martyrdom of saints Peter and Paul. This drawing belongs to this biblical series. The sheet was carefully worked from light to dark in pen, ink, and wash. Often transgressing the contours of the figures, Tiepolo’s approach to wash was so free that he even applied it with his finger (a fingerprint can still be seen at the bottom of the drawing). Only the key characters of this rarely depicted biblical scene are described with precision—Christ and the kneeling centurion, who believed his sick servant at home could be healed by the Lord’s word alone.
Curator's Personal Reflection
Speaker: Giulio Dalvit, Assistant Curator of Sculpture
We often think of drawing as a medium recording a moment—a way to freeze a moment in time. What I love about this drawing is that it tries to do the opposite. It is part of a series of 314 sheets that depict episodes from the Bible. Tiepolo here had to weave this vertical drawing into a horizontal narrative spanning many sheets of paper. He uses the castle as the backdrop against which the scene unfolds, as if on the stage of a theatre. And he suggests movement by allowing the ink to go beyond the contours of the figures. There is something cinematic about this vibrant scene. You want to know what happens next. But the freedom of the ink also reminds us of the presence of the artist. You can almost see his brushstrokes, and you feel his love for quotidian things—a dog in the foreground, a gulp of swallows in the background