The Head of a Warrior
23.81 cm x 17.46 cm (9 3/8 in. x 6 7/8 in.)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
(Venice, Italy, 1696 - 1770, Madrid, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Red and white chalks on blue paper
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Fifteenth century Italian painter and writer Cennino Cennini wrote: “To approach the glory of painting . . . start by taking up a system of drawing on tinted paper.”
Three hundred years later artists continued to follow Cennini’s advice. They commonly drew with black, red, and white chalks on a variety of colored papers, allowing them to model forms in light and dark. With the color of paper as a backdrop, drawings in this manner exhibit the light, volume, and texture of paintings.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s sinuous and rhythmic lines of red and white cause The Head of a Warrior to emerge slowly. Only after recognizing the old warrior’s plumed helmet do we see the delicate and somewhat faded lines of his face coalesce into his upward-looking gaze.