sketch; three figures--foreground head and torso slumped, with head supported by figure at right; standing figure at left; large shadowy areas of ink wash

Death of Hyacinth, c. 1752-1753

How much drama can a great artist pack into a tiny space' Using a brush to draw with various dilutions of ink wash, Giambattista Tiepolo turned this tiny sheet of paper into an operatic stage. This sketch provided the seed for a painting that was over nine feet tall. The dying figure is Hyacinth, a handsome prince who became the god Apollo’s lover in Greek mythology. When Apollo threw a discus, Hyacinth wanted to impress him by catching it, but the unfortunate youth was fatally struck in the head. Unable to revive Hyacinth, Apollo memorialized his lover by creating a flower, the hyacinth, from his body. Tiepolo’s painting reveals that he learned the story from a 1561 translation that substituted a tennis ball for the discus.

Details
Title
Death of Hyacinth
Artist Life
(Venice), 1696–1770
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2012.58.47
Provenance
'Earl Beauchamp. Sale, Sotheby's, London, June 11, 1981, no. 144. [Colnaghi, London, until 1982; sold July 22, as Lamentation of Christ, for £1,500, to Moir]; Alfred Moir, Santa Barbara (1982-d. 2010; bequeathed to MIA)
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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sketch; three figures--foreground head and torso slumped, with head supported by figure at right; standing figure at left; large shadowy areas of ink wash