Roberto Calasso has taken a place in my list of favourite authors. “La Folie Baudelaire” was my introduction to his work and I fell in love with not only the language but the way in which he approaches the subject, the subtle twists and turns in his writing that make it enjoyable to read and easy to stay interested in the subject. “Tiepolo Pink” was no different.
It’s nice to finally be able to not only put a name but also a framework in terms of personality of the artist whose work I have seen several times before but knew practically nothing about. Tiepolo for me was a mystery when I picked up this book, although I saw his work before and developed a love for what is still labelled as the colour Tiepolo Pink. Once again Calasso didn’t just provide the basic biographical information about Tiepolo. There were other artists and critics who appeared in the essay along the way to strengthen his discussion of Tiepolo’s work, and it made the book read more like a factual story than an essay. It had the same plot hooks in place, the same character development that is characteristic of fiction. Quotations were strategically and perfectly placed without being overbearing and truly strengthened the writing without making it feel like the author was trying to be condescending and unloading everything they know onto the reader. Instead, it was a highly informative read that was at the same time entertaining.
In terms of “value” and what this book adds to the art history world, I would say section II, “Meridian Theurgy”, was the most fascinating and informative. Etching is often forgotten about when it comes to artists who create large paintings or frescoes. It was pleasant to see so much attention devoted to the etchings, and the balanced argument that Calasso built around the symbolism and meaning of the plates. The fact that he presented arguments from other art historians and pointed to why some of their theories wouldn’t work proved just how good a writer he is, as well as how eloquent a persuader. The only small downside I would point out, applicable not just to this section but to the book in general, is that at times it could get a little wordy or confusing. There were a few times when I had to go back and reread sentences because they didn’t sound grammatically correct in my head, leaving some lingering doubts after a couple of them still sounded funny after a couple more rereads. However this is a tiny trifle that doesn’t make a dent on the overall splendor of the book.
Not only have a learned a lot more about Tiepolo but I also now can’t wait to read more of Calasso’s books, both his earlier works and those that will be coming out translated in the future. It’s satisfying to read such an informative book that is able to make the task of reading it enjoyable, rather than making it feel like you’re forcing yourself to read in order to source the material later on for a paper. Calasso is a word master, world builder, and a persuasive expert with a pleasant sense of humour. “Tiepolo Pink” would make a wonderful addition to any art lover’s collection, or serve as a good opening into the world of painting, Italian artwork, or art history as a whole.