Oct 31, 2006

Scherzi di Fantasia: Magician Pointing Out a Burning Head to Two Youths

Scherzi di Fantasia: Magician Pointing Out a Burning Head to Two Youths


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

(Italian, 1696–1770)


Support: Laid paper

Sheet: 39 x 27.1 cm (15 3/8 x 10 11/16 in.); Platemark: 22.6 x 18.5 cm (8 7/8 x 7 5/16 in.)

Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1998.113

Catalogue raisonné: De Vesme 16, Rizzi 7

State: I/II



A scherzo is a musical composition made up of little phrases, with implications of playfulness. Tiepolo's Scherzi are improvised scenes of magicians, philosophers, soldiers, old men in turbans, and shepherds who consult horoscopes, skulls, skeletons, and snakes among altars, ruins, and ancient bas-reliefs. The transitory nature of life, the vanity of human pursuits, and direct confrontation with death, are the recurring themes. The eerie mood of the prints reflect the preoccupation of 18th-century Venice with magic, superstition, and witchcraft. Light was Tiepolo's essential means of expression and the basic element of his style. The sensation of sunlight bathing each scene is an illusion created by the contrast of the nervous, broken lines against white paper. Shade is obliterated; even the darkest areas are transparent as they, too, are created out of light.

See also
PR - Etching
Type of artwork: 

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