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Tintoretto. The last great artist of the Italian Renaissance.

Jacobo Tintoretto (born Jacopo Comin) was an artist of immense output and dramatic style who emerged from the Venetian School of painting. Born on September 29th 1518, Jacopo was the eldest of twenty-one children. His father was a silk dyer or tintore; hence the son got the nickname of Tintoretto, "little dyer", or "dyer's boy".

Self-portrait. (c.1588) by Tintoretto.

Jacopo married Faustina de Vescovi in 1550 and they appear to have two sons and five daughters. Two sons Domenico and Marco, and also his daughter Marietta all assisted him in his studio.

It is believed that he showed an early talent for drawing, so his father took the young teenager to the studio of Titian to be apprenticed in painting. However, after only 2 weeks, Titian sent his new pupil home. It has been speculated that the great master was jealous of his young apprentice's talent. However, it is more likely that Titian thought, his pupil showed far too much independence to become a manageable pupil.

In his studio, Jacopo Tintoretto, whom some consider the greatest painter Venice ever produced, was said to have displayed a motto calling for “Michelangelo’s design and Titian’s Color”. The idea was to combine the monumentality of the Florentine’s human figures with the Venetian’s virtuosity in the handling of paint. As it was, Tintoretto spent hours studying models, including models carved by Michelangelo. Like Titian, he became an expert in modelling in wax and clay, which was of great assistance to him in creating figures when arranging the content of his pictures. Sometimes he even used dead bodies as models, suspending them from a wooden box.

In his early career, Tintoretto reportedly worked for very small fees, and gained a large number of commissions as a result.

Tintoretto is noted for his blend of stylistic features: elongated forms, a dynamic articulation, linear arabesques linked to a forceful plasticity, all translated into a completely personal language and animated by an original handling of light. Plus, there is a new conception of spatial depth, and an achievement of the "spectacular" through preliminary rough sketches and arrangements using small wax figures.

Towards 1546 Tintoretto painted for the church of the Madonna dell'Orto three of his leading works: "The Worship of the Golden Calf", "The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple", and "The Last Judgment". He settled down in a house hard by the church. It is a Gothic building, looking over the Fondamenta dei Mori, which is still standing.

Fondamenta dei Mori, the house of Tintoretto. Venice.

In 1548 Jacopo painted the extraordinary "The Miracle of the Slave" and it ranks as one of his most famous paintings.

Saint Mark appears from the heavens within this painting in order to spare a slave from torture. The slave had turned against his master in order to take the side of the saint. Biblical tales were common throughout most of the Renaissance artist's careers and religion was particularly prominent within Italian society at this time. Despite not being respected by other artists during his own lifetime, this particular painting was copied in later centuries by many European artists. Some made sketches of the painting using pen and ink or charcoal.

The Miracle Of The Slave. (c.1548) by Tintoretto.

In 1594 he was seized with severe stomach pains, complicated with fever, that prevented him from sleeping and almost from eating for a fortnight. He died on 31 May 1594. He was buried in the church of the Madonna dell'Orto by the side of his favorite daughter Marietta, who had died in 1590 at the age of thirty. It is said that as she lay in her final repose, her afflicted father had painted her final portrait.

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