Calasso is an archaeologist of myths, dreams, and impressions and a superb interpreter and scintillating stylist. In his latest foray into the realm of the imagination, he excavates one of the most persistent patches of terra incognita on Planet Art, a series of 33 etchings by Venetian rococo painter Tiepolo (1696–1770). Renowned for his graceful and radiant frescoes and paintings of the gods and goddesses of Olympus and allegorical fantasies, Tiepolo is remembered as a happy soul who worked rapidly with esprit. How, then, to explain his ironically titled Capricci and Scherzi (two types of whimsical musical compositions), which consist of phantasmagoric drawings of “psychic density” and dark implication? Others have tried, but none have Calasso’s erudition, wit, and intellectual agility. In this beautifully illustrated study, Calasso, like Tiepolo, makes his effort look easy as he decodes the motley crew of animals, mythical beings, and humans that gather to perform grave rituals in Tiepolo’s strange and brooding prints, metaphysically rich images involving the act of seeing and “lofty instruction” that occupy the hidden heart of Tiepolo’s glorious and covertly intense lifework. --Donna Seaman
“Calasso has written a brilliant, eccentric, provocative, annoying, and thoroughly splendid celebration of a great painter.” —John Banville, The New Republic
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“The next best thing to visiting Europe and seeing the painter’s work . . . Calasso is one of the most demanding and intoxicating critics writing today.” —Los Angeles Times
From the Trade Paperback edition.