Jacopo Tintoretto

1518-1594. Italian painter. He worked in Venice most of his life. A sign supposedly hung on his studio wall read: “The drawing of Michelangelo, the color of Titian.” This tells a great deal about Tintoretto's ambition and achievement. He reached success at the age of twenty-seven with his painting Miracle of Saint Mark. For the most part he was self-taught; Titian* threw him out of his studio after only a few weeks. Tintoretto's temperament was unusual. When the Scoula de San Rocco announced a competition for a painting of their patron saint, many famous painters were invited to compete. When the day came for the judging, the contestants arrived with their sketches-except for Tintoretto, who brought a huge finished painting. He excused himself by saying this was the way he worked.

Perhaps as a result, he became the club's official painter for nearly thirty years. In this place he attempted to marry the styles of Michelangelo* and Titian, but the result was wholly Tintoretto. His compositions exuded vitality with their dramatic lighting, brilliant color, and lithe bodies in unusual perspective. In his Last Supper, Tintoretto represents the moment when Jesus offered the bread and wine as the sacrificial body and blood of man's redemption. To illuminate the scene, Tintoretto bathed his canvas in a supernatural luminosity that emanates partly from the figure of Christ and partly from the flickering flames of the oil lamp, the smoke of which is formed into an angelic choir hovering around the head of Christ. He was perhaps the most skilled of the direct painters, painting onto the canvas without sketch or underpainting-a remarkable feat for any artist.