Cornaro crest

Tintoretto [Jacopo Robusti]

Born: 1518, Venice

Married: c. 1553, Faustina Episcopi

Died: 31 May 1594, Venice


Jacopo Robusti, one of the last great painters of the Renaissance and a precursor of the Baroque period, first became known as TINTORETTO because his father was a dyer. In his Companion Guide to Venice Hugh Honour observes (p. 69), "Titian answered [Venice's] craving for sensuous richness; Tintoretto its taste for mystical fantasy." Another writer has said that Tintoretto's work is characterized by "dramatic effects, bizarre juxtapositions of images and extraordinarily fluid brushwork."

Umberto Fortis comments inThe Uffizi: A Guide to the Gallery (Venice: Edizione Storti, 1980, p. 107) that Tintoretto "took from the Central Italian 'Mannerists' working in Venice and, through them, from Parmigianino and Michelangelo, the basis for a new dynamic handling of form and singular lighting solutions to animate the plastic values of his figures and his chromatic range, so different from the solid impasto employed by Titian."

Art historian S. J. Freedberg concludes in Painting in Italy, 1500-1600 (p. 531): "Tintoretto's style became the dominant model of the Venetian school in the late sixteenth century."

The Miracle of the Slave (1548), now in the Accademia Museum, is sometimes called the painting that made Tintoretto's reputation, but he moved quickly to other triumphs. Another of his notable masterworks is Marriage at Cana (1561).

No one who has visited the Scuola Grande di S. Rocco will ever doubt that Tintoretto was enormously prolific. There the walls and ceilings of room after room are covered by vast canvases executed by Tintoretto and his studio, 1564-88. Of the Crucifixion there, Henry James wrote: "Surely no single picture in the world contains more of human life; there is everything in it, including the most exquisite beauty."

Tintoretto's studio was an important contributor to his work. He was assisted there by his daughter Marietta (1556-90) and by his sons Domenico (c. 1560-1635) (who served as foreman) and Marco (1561-1637). (Tintoretto and his wife had three sons and five daughters.) Following his father's death, Domenico continued to create portraits of prominent Venetians, including a portrait (now lost) of Cardinal Patriarch Federico Cornaro.

Tintoretto's portrait of Alvise Cornaro (B-26), executed c. 1560-5, is displayed in the collection of the Pitti Palace, Florence. His c. 1588 self-portrait (shown above) is in the collection of the Louvre, Paris.

1997-9, 2000 C. I. Gable