Next to Titian, Tintoretto was the second best artists that hailed from the Venetian School of Painting. He had a short stint as an apprentice for Titian during the early years of his career, but because of his greater ambitions he dedicated a lot of his time to crafting dazzling paintings inspired by the methods of Michelangelo and coloring techniques of Tiziano. This superb painting style garnered him immense popularity as one of the best painters of his time.
Tintoretto was part of the Italian Mannerism, which emerged during the late 16th century. This new artistic movement would have influenced the said painter to develop his own approach to painting. Apparently, doing away from the traditional Italian Renaissance served Tintoretto well. Among his masterpieces, the Paradise was one of the most successful creations because of how he showcased his talent and skill in painting figures on what could be the largest painting ever executed on canvas.
Born as Jacopo Comin on 1518, Tintoretto was the eldest among 21 children of Giovanni, his father. He was a native of Venice, in which his family originated from Brescia. His father was a tintore, or dyer, from which Tintoretto’s name was derived.
During his childhood years, Tintoretto busied himself with splattering paints on the walls of the dryers. Showing some potential in the arts his father let him enter the studio of Titian in 1533 to hone his talent and his future career as an artist. However, just after ten days Tintoretto joined Titian’s workshop, he was sent home by the master believing that his style is far from what Titian would have expected from a pupil. Although this is not supposed to say that Tintoretto had some little potential in him to succeed, but his talent is just too much for being a student; that he should be practicing as an independent artist already rather than spend a couple of years in a workshop.
After leaving the workshop of Titian, Tintoretto spent a great amount of time and zeal mastering his craft alone. He lived through gathering bas reliefs and casts, and thus living poorly but thanks to his high ambitions that he was able to triumph over hardships. When he began building his own studio, he placed Il Disegno di Michelangelo ed il Colorito di Tiziano somewhere in it to inspire him to successfully combine the painting methods of these two great masters.
In stating precisely, Tintoretto seemed to be Michelangelo’s biggest fan when he closely studied the painter’s works such as the Dawn, Noon, Twilight and Night. He began with wax modeling and then incorporated the clay method using dead subjects that he retrieved from anatomy schools as his models. Some of those had been modeled in draped or nude as he worked on them over days and nights.
Tintoretto’s career began to pick up momentum when he collaborated with a young painter named Andrea Schiavone. Together, they painted wall paintings in exchange for some commissions to get by. Two of the earliest works of Tintoretto were the Calvary Fight and the Belshazzar’s Feast but both had been destroyed later on.
The Venetian painter also painted for the Carmine Church in Venice. He created the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and a couple of frescoes for S. Benedetto such as the Christ with the Woman of Samaria and the Annunciation. This commission was then followed by another by the Scuola della Trinity for which he painted a series of subjects that depict the Genesis like Adam and Eve and Death of Abel. These two specific works were of masterpiece quality that it is now being preserved at the Venetian Academy.
Additionally, recent art research suggests that The Embarkation of St. Helena was completed by Tintoretto originally; debunking the claims that it had been the work of Schiavone.
Halfway through the 1540’s Tintoretto had been working for the Madonna dell’Orto Church, for which he had done three masterpieces. First, he painted the Worship of the Golden Calf and then proceeded by the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple and Last Judgment. Tintoretto received a princely sum for his two paintings, which served instrumental in making himself famous. As a private artist for the said church, he lived at its yard and continued making paintings for them.
In 1548, Tintoretto was hired by Scuola di S. Marco to paint four paintings namely:
All of these art works were well-received by his contemporaries, including Pietro Aretino. In fact, Tintoretto did some works for Aretino for whom he decorated the ceiling of the master’s house. He was also believed to be invited by Aretino to paint a portrait of him.
As Tintoretto’s career grew, the more it made sense for him to finally marry Faustina de Vescovi, being capable of starting his own family with a daughter of a nobleman. Faustina was the daughter of a guardian grande of Di San Marco School. The couple had five daughters and two sons; however it was also believed that Tintoretto had a daughter, Marietta Robusti, whose mother was of German origin even before he married Faustina in 1550.
15 years after his marriage to Faustina, Tintoretto earned several other major commissions, one of which was the Scuola di San Rocco from 1565 to 1567. For the said school, he executed several paintings to decorate its ceilings and walls. From 1575 to 1588, he would still be painting for di San Rocco but there is a possibility that he had Paolo Veronese at the helm as they adorn these school buildings with paintings. They got the commission through a trial-design competition wherein Tintoretto sent a picture that was placed in an oval.
Under the patronage of di San Rocco School, he produced them a Crucifixion in 1565 which was worth 250 ducats at that time. In 1576, he was rehired by the school to create another central piece that would be placed at the ceiling of the hall which it depicted the Plague of Serpents and then another series of frescoes followed on like the Paschal Feast and Moses Striking the Rock.
Tintoretto had a very successful stint under the Church of San Rocco. In fact, beginning 1577 he was contracted to receive 100 ducats per year under which he was required to produce three paintings for them monthly. Overall, he earned around 2447 ducats throughout his work for the school and the church.
Sometime before his death, he executed his most popular work in today’s modern day era, the Paradise. This enormous painting measured 22.6 x 9.1 meters, making it the largest canvas painting ever painted. It was an ambitious work for its grand scale but Tintoretto was able to complete it magnificently.
Through this work, Tintoretto was able to exercise the depths of his skillful art and methods. His talent in coloring and eye for details was evidenced on this work, too. It seemed that the Paradise was a culmination of his 30-year career as a Mannerist painter. In 1588, the commission for Paradise was granted to him and so he began setting up a studio in Scuola della Misericordia to complete the task. He had done several revisions on the heads and adornments of the figures until he achieved perfection.
While painting Paradise, he was helped out by his son Domenico. And when the work was finally completed he received nothing but praises from his Venetian colleagues for achieving yet another milestone in his career. At that time, Venice was still in the phase of rebuilding due to the internal war that had occurred in the past years. Apparently, with its grand success, Tintoretto was given the right to name his price for Paradise and he received a large sum of money for it.
Painting the Paradise was too much work for the aging Tintoretto that he had to rest for a short while after it. Therefore, he was somewhat inactive towards the 1590’s, but he became an acknowledged member of the Scuola dei Mercanti in 1592.
In 1594, he was crippled by stomach ache and fever consistently. He skipped meals most of the time because of this illness and later on died in May 31, 1594. His remains were buried at the Madonna dell’Orto Church beside her eldest daughter, Marietta.
Beyond Tintoretto’s death, he left a legacy of a family of painters through his two sons and a number of students like Martin de Vos of Antwerp. His studio mainly specialized in painting large-scale art works albeit they were considered as mediocre in quality. But because Tintoretto rarely left Venice to do some journey works his popularity was concentrated on Venice. However, his works might have influenced the style of the Spanish Renaissance painter, El Greco, when he visited Venice a few times to closely study Venetian painting.