One of the great achievements in the history of European printmaking

Tiepolo, Giandomenico (1727-1804).

Idee pittoresche sopra la Fugga in Egitto. [1753].

Tiepolo, Giandomenico (1727-1804) Idee pittoresche sopra la Fugga in Egitto. [1753].

Complete set, comprising the engraved dedication, engraved frontispiece and title-page (on the same leaf), and the series of the twenty-four etchings printed two by two. All printed over fourteen very large sheets (each 537x385 mm; platemarks 190x252 mm, and smaller), on thick cream laid paper, with watermark A, or V and reversed F surmounted by three stars, 1753; final states (according to Tunick's revisions to the Rizzi catalogue; see Italian Prints of the 18th Century, no. 11). Contemporary half-mottled calf stained red, decorative papers over pasteboards. Corners worn. An exceptional copy, with well-inked and very fine impressions, and delicate plate tone in places.

A marvellous and complete set of Tiepolo's celebrated series, Flight into Egypt, with plates in the final state; the series is without precedent in originality and inventiveness, and stands as one of the great achievements in the history of European printmaking. Giandomenico Tiepolo was only twenty-three years old when he began to work on the series, and the majority of the plates were presumably executed while he was working, together with his father Giambattista and his brother Lorenzo, on the frescos in the Imperial Hall of Würzburg; he subsequently dedicated the series to their patron, Carl Philipp von Greiffenclau, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg.

The first etchings that Giandomenico executed were the Stations of the Cross after the paintings he had produced for the Venetian church of St. Polo (1748-1749); the composition and style of execution in these works is greatly influenced by his father. The idea for The Flight into Egypt was said to have come from Giambattista, but Giandomenico took it and ran with it, intending to prove his artistic inventiveness and defend his artistic reputation.

By turning the episode into a pictorial cycle, Tiepolo changed the handling of the Flight into Egypt completely: apart from the first and last images, which depict the departure from Bethlehem and arrival into Egypt, the etchings are basically interchangeable, re-arranging the Holy Family, the angels, the donkey, and the landscape in dynamic, ever-changing compositions.

The collection of etchings – twenty-four variations on what had previously been a two-stage story (the flight, and the rest) – later became an important source of material for the monumental collection of drawings Giandomenico undertook illustrating the New Testament; at least twenty-eight of the drawings focused on the Flight into Egypt.

“The theme of the Holy Family had been rendered sterile by centuries of use [...] To give the subject a new aesthetic dignity, Giandomenico concentrated on details of landscape, such as trees, shrubs and views, and on domestic objects, which gave the episodes a feeling of truth, an ethical quality impregnated with poetry” (Rizzi, The Etchings of the Tiepolos, p. 18).

C. Feller Ives, “Picturesque Ideas on the Flight into Egypt Etched by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 29.1970/71 (1971), 5, pp. 195-202; A. Rizzi, The Etchings of the Tiepolos, London 1971, nos. 67-93; Tunick-Rizzi, Italian Prints of the 18th Century, London 1981, no. 11; A. M. Get - G. Knox, Domenico Tiepolo: A New Testament, Bloomington, Ind., 2006, p. 77; F. Reue, Giandomenico Tiepolo - Die Flucht nach Ägypten, Augustinermuseum Freiburg (exhibition catalogue), Freiburg i.B. 2007; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 234.

$ 85.000