An important Venetian painter of the later sixteenth century, Tintoretto pos­sessed a highly original, dynamic, and expressive painting style. This powerful style endowed Tintoretto's religious works with a dramatic visionary quality and profound religious spirit.
Tintoretto was born Jacopo Robusti in Venice, and his name derived from his father's profession as a textile dyer, a tintore. Initially influenced by the art of Titian,* Tintoretto pursued a more Mannerist approach through the study of the art of Michelangelo,* Giorgio Vasari,* Francesco Salviati,* Giulio Ro­mano,* and Francesco Parmigianino.* His encounter with the art of Schiavone with its fluid pictorial style of flowing and mixed colors provided an important source for Tintoretto in the development of his rapid method of execution, which permitted his expressiveness and fantasy to thrive. Tintoretto came to the fore­front of Venetian painting with his Miraculous Rescue of a Christian Slave by St. Mark (1548, Venice, Accademia), which rejected all previous models of religious painting. The painting's violent contrasts of light and shade, cursive painting style, use of the diagonal, energetic and curving figures, and exciting foreshortenings surprised the public. Tintoretto's theatrical sense in skillfully creating a spatious and dynamic architectural setting that appears to open in all directions is rooted in the study of architecture and stage scenery. His perfor­mance was based on sound study, including designing from life and from plaster casts of ancient sculpture and Michelangelo's work. To understand the effects of light on figures and drapery, according to the seventeenth-century writer Carlo Ridolfi, Tintoretto constructed small stage sets, placed wax figurines in them, and arranged candles in different positions to study how light interacted with figures and drapery.
From the beginning of his career, Tintoretto painted portraits. While they reveal his study of Titian, they lack the older painter's heroic idealization and concern with social position. Instead, Tintoretto concentrated on the character and psychology of the individual while remaining faithful to the sitter's ap­pearance. In 1553 Tintoretto married Faustina de' Vescovi and fathered eight children, some of whom later joined him as painters. The following decade, Tintoretto was entrusted with the decoration of the downstairs room of the Scu-ola di San Rocco, which he completed in three years. Tintoretto's enormous Crucifixion in the Scuola shows the artist's previous experiments on a grander spatial scale, with Christ represented as a triumphant hero. During this period Tintoretto was also called to work in the ducal palace. In 1575 Tintoretto re­turned to the Scuola to paint the upstairs room with scenes from the Old Tes­tament on the ceiling and the life of Christ on the walls. In this cycle, his image of the Adoration of the Shepherds innovatively divided the composition into two levels with the shepherds below and the holy family above in the hayloft. Tin­toretto's poetic, spiritual, and dramatic vision was ideally suited to the unso­phisticated religiosity of his works, which show a popular vision sympathetic to the renewed Christian religiosity and the desire for reform current at that time.
In the 1580s Tintoretto continued to accept many commissions, and as a result his workshop played a larger role in his later art. His work for another room of the Scuola di San Rocco (1582-87) depended heavily on the workshop, as did his final image of Paradise (1588-92), the largest of his career, for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the ducal palace. An expressive and imaginative painter, Tintoretto almost seems to have sought the difficult and ignored the traditional in his attempts to endow a new dynamism in narrative painting. His virtuoso fluid technique, innovativeness, and expressive eloquence provided a great in­fluence on seventeenth-century painting.
R. Pallucchini and P. Rossi, Tintoretto: Le opere sacre e profane, 1982.
D. Rosand, Painting in Cinquecento Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, 1982.
F. Valcanover and T. Pignatti, Tintoretto, 1985.
Mary Pixley

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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