|Susanna and the elders, Tintoretto, ca 1555. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna|
Embarrassing as it is to admit, at that time I had only ever heard of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco because of Woody Allen. In one of the lesser acclaimed (but perhaps my personal favorite) of his films, Everyone says I love you (1996), Allen travels to Venice where he tries to impress a beautiful art historian (Julia Roberts) by showing off how well he knows her favorite painter, Tintoretto. In reality he just rattles off some lines he has memorized from an art book. I know that must sound like a pretty lame plot (it's just a sub-plot, I assure you) but it was executed with such classic Allen style that it makes me laugh just thinking about it. The scene in question takes place at, you guessed it, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, and as a life-long Woody Allen fan, I made sure to visit. Little did I know how right Julia Roberts('s character) was about Tintoretto...
|Self portrait as a young man, Tintoretto, 1548. Victoria and Albert Museum, London|
|Jesus among the doctors of the church, Tintoretto, ca 1542. Museo del Duomo di Milano|
|The Miracle of the slave, Tintoretto, 1548. Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice.|
|Venus, Vulcan and Cupid, Tintoretto, ca 1550-1555. Galleria Palatina, Florence.|
About halfway through my visit, the exhibit's curator Vittorio Sgarbi sauntered past with a gaggle of journalists in tow, each one straining to get close enough to scribble down his every word. Not too keen to join the crush, the only thing I was able to hear was him calling one particular work (Vulcan surprising Venus with Mars, not pictured) as Berlusconiano, because it was about "sex and not love". Not exactly an inspiring comment! So without the tutoring I was lucky to get at the Guercino exhibit, and with a lack of much scholarship on my part of the work of Tintoretto, part of me is tempted (simply for entertainment value, of course) to quote Woody Allen quoting that art book:
"The rapidity of his brush strokes, the chiaroscuro, outbursts of color, his capacity for controlled gesture..."
"How could I not appreciate a man who was short in stature but with a proud obstinate nature who painted outside the academic conventions of 16th century Venice?" (what I can't transcribe is his proud little giggle at his own brilliance; you'll just have to see the film for that gem). By the way, I have scoured the internet for a clip of that scene but I could only find it in Italian, and another thing I cannot abide is Woody Allen dubbed in Italian. So I will spare you. Oh, right, I'm supposed to be writing about Tintoretto, not Woody Allen. Where was I?
|Meeting of Tamar and Judah, Tintoretto, ca 1555-59. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid|
This action-packed Last Supper was recently restored on occasion of the exhibit, and it is fascinating (although I preferred the other version on display next to it, not pictured), but my question is, who is sleeping through all this ruckus under Jesus' left arm?
|Last Supper, Tintoretto, 1568-69. Chiesa di San Polo, Venice|
Unlike most of the other paintings, I didn't particularly like the one below. To be honest, the only thing that came to mind when I saw it was, I really hope heaven won't be so crowded! (I realize this is doubtless a blasphemous thought in many ways.)
|The Crowning of the Virgin or Paradise, Tintoretto, ca 1588. Musée du Louvre, Paris|
This formidable artist's work can possibly best be summed up in his own words, by the sign he had hanging over his studio, "Il disegno di Michelangelo e il colorito di Tiziano" (the design of Michelangelo and the coloring of Titian). He apparently didn't think too little of himself!
|Self Portrait, Tintoretto, 1587. Musée du Louvre, Paris.|
If Woody Allen's and my words have left you thirsting for more substantial insight into the work of this "deep genius (the deepest)", there will be four opportunities to hear a real expert talk about some of the works on display. On 9 and 23 March as well as 4 and 18 May (all Fridays) at 7pm, lectures will be held in situ to explore four different paintings (one per lecture) by art historian and Tintoretto expert Anna Maria Panzera (who may or may not be played by Julia Roberts!) Admission to the lecture is included with purchase of exhibition ticket. I wouldn't miss it! Find information on visiting the show at my Exhibits on now page.
All images provided courtesy of the press office of Le Scuderie del Quirinale
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