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.

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