Art e Dossier

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Art History

Tintoretto: biography

The year of birth of jacopo Robusti, 1519, has been derived from the artist’s death certificate that stated that he was seventy-five years old. Seventeenth century art historians said he was a pupil of Titian and wrote about the serious conflicts between the two, conflicts that prompted the young Tintoretto to leave his master’s atelier. Even if we do not know when he began his independent career, it must have been before 1539 when Jacopo already had his own atelier in Campo San Cassiano and signed his works “maestro.” In June 1544 he signed a deposition stating his father’s name (Giambattista) and trade (dyer). [Tr. note: the Italian word for “dyer” is tintore, hence the nickname Tintoretto]. The decorations of two ceilings with mythological subjects in the Venice home of Pietro Aretino date from 1545. Two years later he signed the altarpiece of the Last Supper in the Venetian church of San Marcuola. In 1548 he painted the Miracle of Saint Mark for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The painting aroused great interest as we can see from the letter of approval that Aretino wrote in April of that year. This important commission was followed by others, the altarpiece in the church of San Marziale, completed in 1549 and the Saint Roch Healing the Plague Stricken, for the church of San Rocco in Venice. During the sixth decade of the century the artist worked even more intensely: between 1551 and 1556 he painted the doors of the organ in the church of Santa Maria dell’Orto and, on commission from Giulio Contarini, those in the church of Santa Maria del Giglio. In 1559 he painted the Probatic Pool in San Rocco and the Last Supper that was originally in San Felice in Venice and now in the church of Saint-François Xavier in Paris. His marriage to Faustina Episcopi that probably was celebrated in 1553 brought the couple eight children, some of whom such as Giambattista and Marco carried on their father’s profession. His work accelerated even more in the fifteen seventies, along with portraits of the most illustrious Venetians and the ceiling in the square atrium of the Ducal Palace he painting many religious scenes: The Adoration of the Golden Calf and The Last Judgment for the presbytery of the church the Madonna dell’Orto (1562), the Descent into limbo, and the Crucifixion for the church of San Cassiano in Venice (1568). In 1564 he began what was to become a nearly thirty-year long project, the decoration of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, with the paintings of Saint Roch in Glory (1564), the Crucifixion (1565), Saint Roch in Prison Comforted by Angels (1568), and then, over the following decades, several series of paintings on canvas and altarpieces. By this time he was one of the greatest artists in Venice, and during the last twenty years of his life he also worked on the Ducal Palace: in 1578 he completed the four Allegories in the Sala dell’Anticollegio and in 1583 the Battle of Zara in the Sala dello Scrutinio. Between 1578 and 1580 he painted the eight large canvases, the Gonzaga Cycle, for the Ducal Palace in Mantua. The two large canvases for the presbytery of the Venetian church of San Giorgio Maggiore, completed between 1592 and 1594 marked the end of Tintoretto’s career, as he died on 31 May 1594.

The works