The Invention of Fantasy
Venice in the eighteenth century, the age of Casanova, was one of the pleasure centers of Europe, famed for its theater and opera and its carnival maskers. Even today, the city, when compared with ordinary cities, appears to be a fantasy, a dream, a hallucination. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s voluptuous painted cloudscapes with figures opened illusionistic light-filled vistas in ceilings; his drawings and prints have a comparable aerial lightness and luminosity. He was assisted by his son Domenico, who, when he retired from painting about 1785, concentrated on making finished drawings on biblical and mythological themes, as well as remarkably playful and whimsical scenes of Venetian daily life. The Museum’s The Milliner’s Shop (above) is one of the finest of these drawings. Other artists in the exhibition include Canaletto and the early Piranesi.