Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was one of the most outstanding 18th century European painters. His pictorial talent was embodied in fabulous religious and historical works while his imagination endowed mythology with a grandiose and spectacular representation. So were the mythological recreations of Rubens, but in my opinion, Tiepolo’s splendid mythological fantasies, even in the form of sketches, transcended his time.
Tiepolo was a much talented draftsman: his powers of invention were unlimited, as was his unique and imaginative style. His elegant compositions enjoyed great fame and his dreamy imagination created disturbing sorcerers, goddesses and gods. Perhaps because they are less well-known than the immense frescoes of Madrid’s Palacio de Oriente, I am tempted to speculate about the influence that the ‘monsters’ of Tiepolo had on a master of comics of the first half of the twentieth century.
During the prologue and during the harsh times of World War II, it emerged from the hands of a great American cartoonist, Alex Raymond, the heroic Flash Gordon who arrived at the distant planet Mongo and would fight against the treacherous Ming and his evil plan to seize control of the Universe. Above the simplistic approach of Flash Gordon comics, the Good (USA) against Evil (Hitler), the futuristic models which Raymond used to dress the heroines of Flash stood out magnificently.
About 200 years before Raymond, Tiepolo dressed his characters in exotic clothes and placed them in dynamic and violent scenes that vaguely remember the adventures of Flash Gordon in Mongo although the talent of Alex Raymond was not able, naturally, to achieve the superior artistry of Tiepolo. The success of the series of Flash Gordon extended to the cinema and later to Television. Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon reached a far higher number of followers than the fortunate connoisseurs of Tiepolo’s ‘mythologies’. I do not know if Alex Raymond had any contact in the course of his life with the work of Tiepolo. It does not matter. For me, the fecund imagination that they shared, introduced in my childhood an element of fascination, bringing to life some of my most beloved dreams about Heroes, Heroines and Monsters.