Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tintoretto, Jacopo

Women Playing Music
year unknown
oil on canvas
142 x 214 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Dresden, Germany

Tintoretto (1518-1594), real name Jacopo Comin, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterized by its muscular figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining color and light typical of the Venetian School. In his youth, Tintoretto was also known as Jacopo Robusti as his father had defended the gates of Padua in a way that others called robust, against the imperial troops during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509-1516).

His nickname derives from his father's profession of dyer (tintore). Although he was prolific and with Veronese the most successful Venetian painter in the generation after Titian's death, little is known of his life. He is said to have trained very briefly with Titian, but the style of his immature works suggests that he may also have studied with Bonifacio Veronese. Almost all of his life was spent in Venice and most of his work is still in the churches or other buildings for which it was painted. He appears to have been unpopular because he was unscrupulous in procuring commissions and ready to undercut his competitors. By 1539 he was working independently, but the little that is known of his early work suggests that he was not precocious.

Tintoretto used to make small wax models which he arranged on a stage and experimented on with spotlights for effects of light and shade and composition. This method of composing explains the frequent repetition in his works of the same figures seen from different angles. He was a formidable draughtsman and he had inscribed on his studio wall the motto 'The drawing of Michelangelo and the colour of Titian'. However, he was very different in spirit from either of his avowed models, more emotive, using vivid exaggerations of light and movement. His drawings, unlike Michelangelo's detailed life studies, are brilliant, rapid notations, bristling with energy, and his colour is more sombre and mystical than Titian's.

Like Titian, Tintoretto kept a huge workshop. The system in the Tintoretto workshop differed from that in use in the Titian and Veronese workshops in that instead of limiting his assistants to close versions, copies or preparatory work on a commission, he employed them mainly on enlargements and extensively altered variants of his original compositions. Tintoretto had great influence on Venetian painting, but the artist who most fruitfully absorbed the visionary energy and intensity of his work was El Greco.