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Jacopo Robusti was born in Venice in 1519, nicknamed Tintoretto due to the his Baptist father’s profession.
One of the paintings that greatly contributed to his fame was that executed in the middle of the century for the Scuola Grande di San Marco. The first painting of the cycle was The Miracle of the Slave, now kept at the Accademia Gallery and which is particularly revolutionary due to its great drama combined with the dynamic tensions typical of central Italy. The other miracles of the patron Saint of Venice were painted by Jacopo in the sixties of the century, and within them one can find depicted Tommaso Rangone, physician, philosopher and guardian of the School, as well as patron of the cycle.
San Roch in the Hospital dates back to 1549, made for the church of the same name, perhaps as compensation for the brothers of the school who, for years, had tried to build a real hospital. Indeed, following the construction of their new prestigious headquarters there had been the desire to convert the old building into a shelter for the needy, but the neighboring Frari, who were the owners of the land, never gave permission. With around a decade between then, the painter produced two more paintings, Christ Healing the Sick (1559) and St. Rocco in Prison visited by an Angel (1567).
In the sixth decade of the century Tintoretto was engaged in the church that was to become representative of his career and beyond. He designed the organ’s doors for Madonna dell'Orto, with the Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple on the exterior and the Apparition of the Cross to St. Peter and The Beheading of St. Paul on the interior. He also painted Moses receiving the tables of the Law and the Making of the Golden Calf along with The Last Judgment for the sides of the presbytery.
Eucharistic themes such as the Washing of the feet and of the Last Supper were used repeatedly by the painter. From the seventies of the century onwards, this last iconographic subject often became a perfect metaphor of the Tridentine regulations which emphasized the importance of charity, considered unnecessary for the purpose of salvation by Protestants. To cite a few examples, there is the Last Supper of San Trovaso (1565), of San Polo (1570) and of San Giorgio Maggiore (1591-93).
In the mid 60s of the century, Jacopo Tintoretto dedicated himself to what is undoubtedly his most representative cycle of works. In 1564 he began working for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in the Sala dell'Albergo illustrating the Passion of Christ, midway through the following decade he dedicated himself to the ceiling of the Sala Superiore with the stories of Moses and the Old Testament, and towards the end of the decade he depicted the Life of Christ on the walls. Finally, he painted the life of Mary and the infancy of Jesus in the Sala Terrena between 1582 and 1586. The peculiarity of the entire pictorial cycle is the linking among them of various episodes through allegory and foreshadowing according to similar themes: that of water, for example, with Moses Strikes Water from the Rock on the ceiling of the Sala Superiore, The Baptism of Christ is on the wall immediately below and on the opposite wall is the The Pool of Bethesda.
However, Tintoretto did not spend his entire life just painting devotional themes. He also worked on celebratory subjects for the Palazzo Ducale before and after the disastrous fire of 1577, and he executed the Gonzaga Cycle together with his son towards the end of the 1580s - eight paintings that exalted the glorious state of the family.
The paintings for the church of San Giorgio Maggiore were the last works done by the painter. He painted the two sides of the presbytery for the Benedictines (The Last Supper and the The Jews in the Desert) and the Deposition between 1592 and 1594, the year of his death after fifteen days of fever at the age of seventy-five. Tintoretto was buried near the church of Madonna dell'Orto, where his children Marietta and Domenico also rest.