Early Life and Work

According to tradition, Tintoretto studied for a brief time under Titian, 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 Michelangelo 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).

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