Hercules and Antaeus

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
Hercules and Antaeus
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Hercules and Antaeus, late 18th century. Black pen and ink and black and gray washes with partial brown ink border, overall: 10 in. x 7 9/16 in. Gift of Mrs. Edyth Kumin Shulman (class of 1932) 1980.102.
Levine Gallery

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, son and student of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770), was an assistant to his father from 1750 until 1770. During this period, he also worked as an independent artist. A prime example of his independent work, this virtuosic drawing depicts Hercules defeating the famed, giant wrestler Antaeus. After struggling, Hercules realized that if he held Antaeus aloft, he could crush him with his embrace. The struggle between Antaeus and Heracles was a favored subject in ancient and Renaissance sculpture, as well as by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, who created at least 38 other drawings of the subject, which relate to his Zianigo frescoes (c. 1793) in the Tiepolo family residence—now Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. Unlike these other drawings, this sheet employs gray rather than brown wash and depicts a fully developed landscape in the background. This drawing may have been a study for a series of prints that Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo never executed. The energized lines of the contours of the figures are rendered in black ink, which define where they might later be found in the print, with washes blocking out the major tonal passages. This captivating drawing demonstrates Giovanni Domenico’s ability to populate an Italianate landscape with rustic buildings and figures informed by classical sculpture.

Eve Straussman-Pflanzer,
Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs / Senior Curator of Collections