Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Tribute to Italian master spans two continents

RENAISSANCE GENIUS:A successful exhibition of the painter Tintoretto’s works to mark his 500th anniversary is opening in Washington on March 10


A visitor to an exhibition of Tintoretto works looks at his Presentation of Jesus in the Temple at the Doges’ Palace in Venice, Italy, on Dec. 3.

Photo: AP

A Venetian cloth dyer’s son, Tintoretto spent his entire career in Venice, becoming widely considered the last great painter of the Renaissance.

The lagoon city’s churches and palazzi essentially serve as a permanent retrospective of this native son’s formidable talents in using dramatic color, bold brushstrokes and daringly innovative perspective on often-enormous canvasses.

Still, curators here have encountered challenges when mounting tributes this year to mark the 500th anniversary of his birth.

Some of Tintoretto’s paintings could not be included in the main exhibition, hosted at the landmark Palazzo Ducale (Doges’ Palace), because they could not fit through its 16th-century stone doorways.

Moreover, several Venetian churches, where the painter did much of his best work, balked at loaning their masterpieces.

Not surprisingly, they are eager for visitors making the Tintoretto pilgrimage to visit their venues and not just the stellar show, which, since opening in September, has drawn more than 100,000 visitors.

After it closes in Venice on Jan. 6, the exhibition travels to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a four-month run starting on March 10. That will be the first-ever Tintoretto retrospective outside of Europe.

When Venice last hosted a Tintoretto retrospective, in 1937, church paintings were cut out of their frames, rolled up and carted off to the exhibition.

That method would be met with horror by today’s art world, especially since nearly a score of Tintoretto paintings were recently restored, thanks to the Save Venice organization.

“The churches generally felt, and we understood, it didn’t make sense to move his masterpieces across the city,” said Robert Echols, a Boston-based art historian who is one of the curators.

However, some of those church works will go to the US exhibition.

Some of Tintoretto’s greatest works can never travel, of course, and are being celebrated here.

In the Chapter House in the Scuola di San Rocco , admirers can lay on their backs to see Tintoretto’s work, which has been likened to the monumental achievement of Michelangelo in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Thanks to new lighting and strategically placed mirrors, the Chapter House last month had its own renaissance of sorts. Now visitors can see details in what before had seemed like a gloomy, cavernous room.

Echols and cocurator Frederick Ilchman, chair of European art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, devoted much of their art historian careers to weeding out paintings that had been dubiously attributed to Tintoretto, whittling down what had been a list of 468 works to just more than 300 paintings of his authorship.

“Tintoretto, to some extent, is a painter who was a victim of his own success,” Echols said.

Tintoretto, a pseudonym of Jacopo Robusti, obtained so many commissions, particularly in his later years, that he farmed out some work, notably to his son, Domenico.

While his genius was acknowledged in his own day, some works done by imitators or his workshop had been incorrectly attributed to Tintoretto in successive centuries.

Tintoretto cleverly maneuvered to snag commissions from nobles and churches during the heady years of the sea-going Most Serene Republic of Venice.

“The Shakespeare play is not the ‘Merchant of Florence,’ it’s The Merchant of Venice,” Ilchman said, recounting how Tintoretto sometimes offered discounts to ensure commissions did not go to his rivals, who included Titian and Veronese.

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