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Tiepolo Pink by Roberto Calasso
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Tiepolo Pink (2009)

by Roberto Calasso

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This was one of those books that had deserts and desserts; both were pretty, some were long. Though I often found myself confused and impatient while reading this, the first sentence was very rewarding.
"What happened with Tiepolo was the same thing that was to happen with certain imposing and mysterious ancient objects like the Shang bronzes: those aspects that resisted interpretation were considered decorative, while those too charged with meaning were labeled ornamental." I can take that to the museum with me.

( )
  dmarsh451 | Mar 31, 2013 |
I’m not the most patient person, which is one reason why I don’t listen to audiobooks or write/read long reviews here, so this book’s long non-critical descriptions of Tiepolo’s work were often, but not always, tedious to me; I’d rather just see reproductions of his work accompanied by critical commentary stripped of superfluous I-spyery, but that isn’t really possible for a cheap paperback, and might not appeal to most people anyway. Other than that, the book is fairly interesting, particularly the middle section which deals with Tiepolo’s Capricci and Scherzi (posing a question similar to one of Tom Waits’: What’s he building in there?) and lightly touches on a host of different subjects ranging from Classical mythology to Venetian history. Calasso mentions early that Tiepolo’s work is defined by sprezzatura: the ability to do a thing with nonchalance--Calasso’s prose (or that of his translator) achieves the same thing: it’s beautifully fluid, and devoid of self-consciousness, pretension, and effort. Worth reading, even if, like me, you have only a marginal interest in the main subject (although Tiepolo is a sympathetic figure, if only because he’s a bit of a blank canvas). 3.5 stars. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Mar 5, 2013 |
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"The eighteenth-century Venetian painter Giambattista Tiepolo spent his life executing commissions in churches, palaces, and villas, often covering vast ceilings like those at the Würzburg Residenz in Germany and the Royal Palace in Madrid with frescoes that are among the glories of Western art. The life of an epoch swirled around him--but though his contemporaries appreciated and admired him, they failed to understand him. Few have even attempted to tackle Tiepolo's series of thirty-three bizarre and haunting etchings, the Capricci and the Scherzi, but Roberto Calasso rises to the challenge, interpreting them as chapters in a dark narrative that contains the secret of Tiepolo's art. Blooming ephebes, female Satyrs, Oriental sages, owls, snakes: we will find them all, as well as Punchinello and Death, within the pages of this book, along with Venus, Time, Moses, numerous angels, Cleopatra, and Beatrice of Burgundy--a motley company always on the go. Calasso makes clear that Tiepolo was more than a dazzling intermezzo in the history of painting. Rather, he represented a particular way of meeting the challenge of form: endowed with a fluid, seemingly effortless style, Tiepolo was the last incarnation of that peculiar Italian virtue sprezzatura, the art of not seeming artful."--From publisher description.… (more)

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