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(tēntōrĕt`tō), 1518–94, Venetian painter, whose real name was Jacopo Robusti. Tintoretto is considered one of the greatest painters in the Venetian tradition. He was called Il Tintoretto [little dyer] from his father's trade.

Early Life and Work

According to tradition, Tintoretto studied for a brief time under TitianTitian
, c.1490–1576, Venetian painter, whose name was Tiziano Vecellio, b. Pieve di Cadore in the Dolomites. Of the very first rank among the artists of the Renaissance, Titian was extraordinarily versatile, painting portraits, landscapes, and sacred and historical
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, but the precocity of the young painter is said to have aroused the jealousy of the master. Certainly his fiery temper and furtive business tactics caused him unpopularity among Venetian artists. It is rather difficult to verify his earlier paintings, as Tintoretto was able to assimilate styles with amazing ease. His early works are still confused with those of Bonifazio Veronese, Paris Bordone, and Andrea Schiavone. Tintoretto copied drawings by MichelangeloMichelangelo Buonarroti
, 1475–1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, b. Caprese, Tuscany. Early Life and Work

Michelangelo drew extensively as a child, and his father placed him under the tutelage of Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the day.
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 and may even have met him on a supposed trip to Rome (c.1545). He once stated that he aspired to combine the drawing of Michelangelo with the color of Titian.

One of his early pictures, Apollo and Marsyas, was painted for the writer Pietro Aretino. Aretino praised it highly, commenting on the rapidity of execution. This mode of impulsive expression was current in Venice and became one of the characteristics of Tintoretto's art. In 1548 he painted the Miracle of St. Mark (Academy, Venice) for the Scuola di San Marco, a picture that attracted much attention. Although there are some Michelangelesque elements in the treatment of the figures, an independent spirit was emerging. Tintoretto began to develop startling lighting effects and a highly dramatic rendering of narrative. These qualities are also evident in other works of the same period, such as the Washing of Feet (Escorial) and Last Supper (San Marcuola, Venice).

Mature Work

In the 1550s Tintoretto tended more in the direction of mannerism. He introduced a flickering light, contorted figures, and irrational spatial elements into such pictures as Presentation of the Virgin, Golden Calf, and Last Judgment (all in the Madonna dell'Orto, Venice). He achieved an almost ghostly effect by funneling perspective into a long, narrow lane. This technique was used in the scenes from the life of St. Mark executed (1562–66) for the Scuola di San Marco (now in the Academy, Venice, and the Brera, Milan).

In 1564 Tintoretto began his great cycle of paintings in the Scuola di San Rocco, which he worked on intermittently until c.1587. The series includes an enormous Crucifixion, the glorification of the lives of the Venetian saints, and scenes from the Passion. Remarkable for their freedom of execution, these paintings are also noted for their startling changes in viewpoint, frenetic movement, and mystic conception. An incredibly versatile artist, Tintoretto painted many scenes for the ducal palace, varying from erotic mythological pictures such as Bacchus and Ariadne, The Three Graces, and Minerva and Mars, to historical themes such as The Venetian Ambassadors before Frederick Barbarossa, The Battle of Zara, and the gigantic Paradise. Many of his other works in the ducal palace were destroyed in the fire of 1577.

The last phase of Tintoretto's art was of a highly visionary nature. He painted still more freely and obtained almost phosphorescent lighting effects in the Last Supper and Entombment (San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice). Three of his children, Domenico, Marco, and Marieta, became painters and assisted him.

Tintorettos in American Collections

His works in American collections include the Baptism of Clorinda (Art Inst., Chicago); Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes and Finding of Moses (Metropolitan Mus.); Portrait of a Lady with her Daughter (Walters Art Gall., Baltimore); Portrait of Alexander Farnese (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston); a portrait of a Venetian senator (Frick Coll., New York City); and six paintings in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


See studies by H. Tietze (1948) and E. Newton (1952).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(pseudonym of Jacopo Robusti). Born Sept. 29, 1518, in Venice; died there May 31, 1594. Italian painter of the Venetian school.

Tintoretto may have studied under Bonifazio Veronese or Paris Bordone as well as under Titian. He was influenced by Schiavone (A. Meldolla), Michelangelo, Titian, Parmigianino, and L. Lotto. After 1539, he worked independently. A master draftsman, Tintoretto was able to depict complex foreshortening, dramatic effects of light, and the most varied types of movement. Even in his early works, such as Birth of St. John the Baptist (late 1540’s, Hermitage, Leningrad), he far surpassed his contemporaries in the innovation and boldness of his art. In The Miracle of St. Mark (1548, Academy Gallery, Venice), he conveyed the crowd’s amazement and delight in a virtuoso manner. The work shows that he was already a completely accomplished master.

During the 1550’s and 1560’s, Tintoretto’s individual style was finally formed. He depicted mass scenes in which he showed people’s different reactions to an event. He created dizzying spatial constructions and used asymmetrical compositions with deep perspective and powerful lighting effects. The pure, shining colors that characterized his early work gave way to darker tones, signaling a greater emotional tension. This can be seen in his The Presentation of the Virgin (c. 1555, Church of Santa Maria dell’ Orto, Venice), The Rescue (Picture Gallery, Dresden), and three paintings on themes from the legend of St. Mark (1562–64, Academy Gallery, Venice and Brera Gallery, Milan).

Tintoretto’s principal work is the cycle of ceiling paintings for the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice (1565–88), in which he gave a profoundly democratic interpretation of the Christian story. He paid particular attention to the depiction of the common people, as in The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Baptism of Christ, and to the landscape, which often seems to absorb his romantically agitated figures, as in The Flight Into Egypt. Tintoretto’s battle compositions, for example, The Capture of Zara (c. 1585, Doges’ Palace, Venice), are acutely emotional, a characteristic shared by The Last Supper (1592–94, Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice), which is also outstanding for its magical lighting. Tintoretto’s paintings in the Sala dell’ Anticollegio of the Doges’ Palace (1578), filled with soft musicality and grace, are unique in his late creative work. The artist also painted portraits, the best of which anticipate the art of Rembrandt in their refined psychological insight.

Charged with a rebellious spirit, Tintoretto’s art clearly reflected the ideological and, particularly, the religious ferment of the second half of the 16th century. It answered the demands of the democratic masses, who had been stirred by the Reformation. Tintoretto borrowed much from the mannerist style (contraposto, spiral movement, and decorative composition), but the cold, formal refinement of the mannerists was alien to him. He was linked with the baroque artists by the emotional ardor of his work and by the sense of infinity found in his arrangements of space. The range and independent character of Tintoretto’s gift for realism make his work, like that of Michelangelo, a magnificent epilogue to the art of the late Renaissance.


Vipper, B. R. Tintoretto. Moscow, 1948.
Tietze, H. Tintoretto. London, 1948.
Newton, E. Tintoretto. London [1952].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Il . original name Jacopo Robusti. 1518--94, Italian painter of the Venetian school. His works include Susanna bathing (?1550) and the fresco cycle in the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice (from 1564)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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