A bloc­k­bu­ster ex­hi­bi­tion ce­le­bra­tes the 500th an­ni­ver­sa­ry of the bir­th of Ja­co­po Tintoretto, one of the grea­te­st ar­tists of all ti­me. The re­la­tion­ship bet­ween the ar­ti­st and the ci­ty goes well beyond tran­sient even­ts. Whe­re® of­fers you a com­ple­te iti­ne­rar

Where Venice - - Contents - BY ELE­NA BIN­DA

The re­la­tion­ship bet­ween Ja­co­po Tintoretto and Venice goes well beyond the ce­le­bra­tion of the 500th an­ni­ver­sa­ry of his bir­th. Whe­re of­fers you a com­ple­te iti­ne­ra­ry in the ci­ty.

ive hun­dred years ha­ve pas­sed sin­ce Ja­co­po Ro­bu­sti was born in a beau­ti­ful Go­thic hou­se in the Can­na­re­gio di­strict. The son of a ‘tin­tor', an ar­ti­san who dyed fa­brics, Tintoretto (mea­ning

‘lii­tle dyer') was a nic­k­na­me that was de­sti­ned to go do­wn in hi­sto­ry. It was quic­kly ap­pa­rent that, li­ke his fa­ther, he had a gift for co­lour. The on­ly dif­fe­ren­ce was that Tintoretto used them to de­pict bold in­no­va­ti­ve com­po­si­tions, dra­ma­tic fi­gu­res, chia­ro­scu­ro ef­fec­ts, and per­spec­ti­ves that had ne­ver been seen be­fo­re on can­vas. The ‘Little Dyer' was ta­len­ted. So ta­len­ted that he en­ded up re­vo­lu­tio­ni­zing art. “The fel­low ou­tli­nes a hu­man fi­gu­re wi­th ten bru­sh­stro­kes, and co­lours it wi­th as ma­ny mo­re”. Thus wro­te John Ru­skin, the 19th cen­tu­ry En­gli­sh wri­ter, ar­ti­st, poet and art cri­tic in a let­ter da­ted 1845, af­ter a vi­sit to the Scuo­la Gran­de di San Roc­co. “As for pain­ting,” he con­ti­nued, “I think I didn't know what it meant un­til to­day.” And, af­ter con­tem­pla­ting Tintoretto's ‘cru­ci­fi­xion' in the chur­ch of San Cas­sia­no, the Ame­ri­can no­ve­li­st Hen­ry Ja­mes re­mar­ked:

“It see­med to me that I had ad­van­ced to the ut­ter­mo­st li­mit of pain­ting.”

To­day, fi­ve cen­tu­ries af­ter the ar­ti­st's bir­th, his works con­ti­nue to ama­ze viewers. And the­re's ano­ther di­stinc­ti­ve trait that ma­kes Tintoretto an ex­traor­di­na­ry ar­ti­st: his re­la­tion­ship wi­th Venice.

He is the on­ly ar­ti­st among the ti­tans of 16th cen­tu­ry Ve­ne­tian art who was ac­tual­ly born in

Venice. Tintoretto de­di­ca­ted a num­ber of works, une­qual­led by any other ar­ti­st, to his na­ti­ve ci­ty. Chur­ches, con­fra­ter­ni­ties, ci­vic buil­dings and pri­va­te ‘pa­laz­zi' abound in his art­works and are so mu­ch part of their set­tings that they can­not be mo­ved. Long be­fo­re the con­cept of ‘site-specific art' was fa­shio­na­ble, Tintoretto was re­no­w­ned for ha­ving a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship wi­th his pla­ces of work. Among other things, he was a Ve­ne­tian wi­th a Ve­ne­tian tem­pe­ra­ment. He was al­so kno­wn for his bu­si­ness acu­men. At the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer, he ma­na­ged to de­po­se his ri­vals by of­fe­ring lo­wer pri­ces or ac­cep­ting al­mo­st

im­pos­si­ble dead­li­nes. He ga­ve pain­tings away to in­crea­se his re­pu­ta­tion, and to cul­ti­va­te po­ten­tial cu­sto­mers. It is pos­si­ble that Tintoretto ini­tial­ly de­ve­lo­ped his sur­pri­sing pic­to­rial tech­ni­que in or­der to be mo­re ef­fi­cient and pro­fi­ta­ble.

His peers cri­ti­ci­zed him for the ‘un­fi­ni­shed' ap­pea­ran­ce of se­ve­ral of his works. In 1568, when wri­ting about Tintoretto, Gior­gio Va­sa­ri said: “His stran­ge whim­sies are even beyond ex­tra­va­gan­ce, and his work seems to be pro­du­ced ra­ther by chan­ce, than in con­se­quen­ce of any pre­vious de­si­gn.” It ap­pears that Tintoretto was mo­stly sel­ftaught be­cau­se, ac­cor­ding to an anec­do­te that is ve­ry hard to ve­ri­fy, his ma­ster, Ti­tian th­rew him out of his work­shop in a fit of jea­lou­sy. Ho­we­ver, the po­wer of his sty­le soon be­ca­me ap­pa­rent, win­ning over his peers, and fu­tu­re ge­ne­ra­tions. The work that ma­de him fa­mous and sea­led his suc­cess was The Mi­ra­cle of the Sla­ve for the Scuo­la Gran­de di San Mar­co (1548, cur­ren­tly hou­sed at the Ac­ca­de­mia) whi­ch, mo­re than any of his other crea­tions, exem­pli­fies the achie­ve­ment of his ae­sthe­tic ideal. In fact, th­rou­ghout mu­ch of his ca­reer, Tintoretto had sought to com­bi­ne “Mi­che­lan­ge­lo's dra­wing sty­le wi­th Ti­tian's co­lours.”


When Gior­gio Va­sa­ri wro­te: “Tintoretto has pain­ted and pain­ts mo­st of the works in Venice,” Tintoretto was on­ly mid-way th­rou­gh his ca­reer and had not yet be­gun to paint his mo­st im­por­tant works. In the 1550s, his sta­tus had been th­rea­te­ned by the ar­ri­val in the ci­ty of the bril­liant Pao­lo Ve­ro­ne­se who was ten years his ju­nior. Tintoretto reac­ted by pain­ting two ma­gni­fi­cent, lar­ge-sca­le works for the chur­ch of the Ma­don­na dell’Or­to,The Uni­ver­sal Judg­ment and the Ado­ra­tion of the Gol­den Calf. In 1564, he be­gan de­co­ra­ting the Scuo­la Gran­de di San

Roc­co, whi­ch ma­ny con­si­der ‘his Si­sti­ne Cha­pel'. Tintoretto's works are li­te­ral­ly spread th­rou­ghout Venice, wi­th a par­ti­cu­lar con­cen­tra­tion of his ear­lie­st works in the se­stie­re of Can­na­re­gio, the nei­gh­bou­rhood in whi­ch he was born. This means that it is ne­ces­sa­ry to vi­sit Venice in or­der to ful­ly un­der­stand the great­ness of the mae­stro's bo­dy of work. In ad­di­tion, his mo­st fa­mous pie­ces in­clu­de at lea­st ni­ne ver­sions of The La­st

Sup­per, all lo­ca­ted in Venice. Among the­se, the mo­st pri­ce­less can be found in the chur­ches of San Mar­cuo­la (1547), San Tro­va­so (cir­ca1563), San Po­lo (1574-75) and San Gior­gio Mag­gio­re (159294). The pre­sen­ce of Tintoretto's work be­ca­me even mo­re wi­de­spread at the end of the 1570s, when the ar­ti­st tran­sfor­med his work­shop in­to a fa­mi­ly-run bu­si­ness. Tintoretto em­ployed his son Do­me­ni­co (born in 1560), his be­st as­si­stant and suc­ces­sor, but al­so his daughter Ma­riet­ta (born in 1554) who ma­de a name for her­self as a re­no­w­ned por­trai­ti­st. Tintoretto's works in Venice ran­ge from au­then­tic au­to­gra­ph pain­tings to others whi­ch, de­spi­te car­ry­ing his ‘tra­de­mark', we­re ac­tual­ly exe­cu­ted by his as­si­stan­ts. Among Venice's ma­ny trea­su­res, few are mo­re spec­ta­cu­lar than Tintoretto's Pa­ra­di­se, whi­ch hangs in the

Sa­la Mag­gior Con­si­glio of the Do­ge’s Pa­la­ce. The pain­ting, the lar­ge­st in Venice, was com­mis­sio­ned in 1592 when Tintoretto was 70 years old and was exe­cu­ted wi­th the help of his son Do­me­ni­co. When Ja­co­po died, in the sa­me hou­se in whi­ch he was born on 31 May 1594, Do­me­ni­co con­ti­nued to run the work­shop un­til his dea­th in 1635. It is the­re­fo­re no sur­pri­se that the tomb of Tintoretto is lo­ca­ted in the pa­ri­sh chur­ch of Ma­don­na dell'Or­to, the sa­me chur­ch that ma­de him fa­mous th­rou­ghout the world.


But whe­re can the­se nu­me­rous works by Tintoretto be found? In ad­di­tion to tho­se men­tio­ned abo­ve, the­re are at lea­st ano­ther eighteen that de­ser­ve a spe­cial men­tion, be­cau­se they ha­ve been beau­ti­ful­ly re­sto­red and re­tur­ned

to their ori­gi­nal pla­ces. The­se in­clu­de Saint Mar­tial in Glo­ry wi­th Sain­ts Pe­ter and Paul (1549), in the chur­ch of San Mar­zia­le in Can­na­re­gio; Saint Je­ro­me’s Vi­sion of the Vir­gin Ma­ry (cir­ca 1580), in the Ve­ne­tian Uni­ver­si­ty; the Mar­ria­ge at Ca­na (1561), in the Chur­ch of San­ta Ma­ria del­la Sa­lu­te; the Cru­ci­fi­xion (1554-1556), cur­ren­tly on di­splay at the Gal­le­rie dell'Ac­ca­de­mia; Saint Ro­ch in the De­sert (cir­ca 1580); Saint Ro­ch Cu­ring the Ani­mals (1567), and Saint Ro­ch Cap­tu­red at the Bat­tle of Mont­pel­lier (cir­ca 1580), at the Chur­ch of San Roc­co in San­ta Cro­ce; Saint Ju­sti­nian wi­th Th­ree Trea­su­rers and their Se­cre­ta­ries (1580) on di­splay at the Cor­rer Mu­seum; the en­ti­re cy­cle found on the cei­ling of Pa­laz­zo Du­ca­le's Squa­re Atrium and the cy­cle on the cei­ling of the Sa­la dell'An­ti­col­le­gio, in the sa­me buil­ding; and, la­stly, as pre­viou­sly men­tio­ned, Tintoretto tomb in the chur­ch of Ma­don­na dell'Or­to. It's in­te­re­sting to no­te that the Ame­ri­can non-pro­fit or­ga­ni­za­tion Sa­ve

Venice rai­sed the 25 mil­lion dol­lars re­qui­red to re­sto­re the­se trea­su­res. “When so­meo­ne asks us why Ame­ri­cans should help re­sto­re art works by a 16th cen­tu­ry Ita­lian pain­ter,” says its Pre­si­dent Fre­de­rick Ich­man, “we an­swer that the Ita­lians on­ly hold the­se trea­su­res in tru­st for all of us, and it is our shared re­spon­si­bi­li­ty to do what we can to help. It's li­ke say­ing: we are all de­scen­dan­ts of the Re­nais­san­ce, we are all Ve­ne­tians.”


Even thou­gh this treasure tro­ve will ma­ke your head spin, the li­st is not yet com­ple­te. In the chur­ch of San­ta Ma­ria As­sun­ta (kno­wn as “i Ge­sui­ti”) the­re's the al­tar­pie­ce of the As­sump­tion of Ma­ry, an ear­ly work by Tintoretto, ini­tial­ly gi­ven as a com­mis­sion to Ve­ro­ne­se. In San Laz­za­ro dei Men­di­can­ti, the se­cond al­tar hou­ses Ja­co­po Tintoretto's Saint Ur­su­la and the Ele­ven Thou­sand Vir­gins (cir­ca 1555). The chur­ch of San Zac­ca­ria is ho­me to The Bir­th of Saint John the Bap­ti­st, an al­tar­pie­ce pain­ted bet­ween 1546 and 1548. The chur­ch of San Giu­sep­pe di Ca­stel­lo is the pla­ce whe­re Tintoretto pain­ted The Ar­chan­gel Mi­chael Van­qui­shing Lu­ci­fer in the pre­sen­ce of Mi­che­le Bon.

In ad­di­tion to The La­st Sup­per (1579-80), San­to Ste­fa­no, whe­re the sa­cri­sty hou­ses a real mu­seum of il­lu­strious na­mes of the Ve­ne­tian Re­nais­san­ce, al­so hou­ses The Re­sur­rec­tion, Ch­ri­st Wa­shing the Feet of the Apo­stles and The Ora­tion in the Or­chard; works that we­re exe­cu­ted at the sa­me ti­me as tho­se for the Scuo­la Gran­de of San Roc­co. San Moi­sè, San­ta Ma­ria Zo­be­ni­go, San Sil­ve­stro, San Si­meo­ne Pro­fe­ta, San­ta Ma­ria Ma­ter Do­mi­ni and the Car­mi­ni al­so ho­st works by the mae­stro. And, fi­nal­ly, the­re's the Ba­si­li­ca di San Mar­co whe­re Tintoretto de­si­gned a pre­pa­ra­to­ry sket­ch for one of its mo­st fa­mous mo­saics. It is he­re, in the bea­ting heart of Venice that Ja­co­po Ro­bu­sti of Can­na­re­gio, nic­k­na­med Tintoretto, af­ter his fa­ther, the clo­th dyer, be­longs.

Ja­co­po Tintoretto, The La­st Sup­per (1579-1580), San­to Ste­fa­no chur­ch.

Ja­co­po Tintoretto, The La­st Sup­per (1592-1594), San Gior­gio Mag­gio­re ba­si­li­ca.

COUR­TE­SY OF THE THIN WHI­TE DUKEDa­vid Bo­wie was an im­men­se ad­mi­rer of Tintoretto's ex­pres­si­ve po­wer. As a col­lec­tor, the rock star pre­fer­red con­tem­po­ra­ry art, but ma­de an ex­cep­tion for ‘The An­gel Fo­re­tel­ling Saint Ca­the­ri­ne of Ale­xan­dria of Her Mar­tyr­dom' da­ted 1570. Ne­go­tia­tions are un­der way to bring the can­vas to Venice in 2019.

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