Jacopo Tintoretto together with Titian (1490-1576) and Veronese (1528–88) was one of the trio of “Great Venetians" of Italian sixteenth century painting. Veronese was promoted by Titian as his artistic heir, but Tintoretto was seen as a potential rival. While Titian developed an international clientele, Tintoretto executed most of his greatest works in Venice. He liked to work on a large scale and kept his prices down, sometimes painting ‘loss leaders’ to secure business. His best clients were charitable institutions called Scuole, some which had limited resources.
Tintoretto's first masterpiece was the Miracle of the Slave, today in the Accademia, Venice. Here, the example of Michelangelo is apparent in the vigorous poses, which Tintoretto articulated and energized with deep shadows, and many faces wholly or partly concealed, emphasizing movement at the expense of individual characterization. The surging mass in the foreground is thrown into relief by a brightly lit architectural backdrop. In two other contemporary paintings, of The Finding and Restitution of the Body of St. Mark, he further dramatizes the story with steep perspective. All these devices were to form the backbone of his subsequent work.
His most ambitious project, for which he is best known, is the cycle of religious paintings in the Scuola di San Rocco, where his sense of drama becomes visionary. The Crucifixion, with its wealth of inventive ideas, provided a kind of artistic lexicon for later generations, notably Rubens. Tintoretto also worked in the Palazzo Ducale, where his main contribution was the immense Paradise, populated by clumps of figures deployed like thunderclouds. His other work there was done with studio assistance, including his competent son Domenico (1560–1635). Like Titian, Tintoretto was a strong and prolific portraitist but without Titian's subtlety and variety. His mythological paintings, like the Susanna and the Elders in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, have a lightness of touch which is sometimes humorous.
Top Auction Results for Jacopo Tintoretto
Portrait of an elderly bearded man, head and shoulders
Sold for £1,609,250 ($3,169,062)
London, Sotheby’s, 9 July 2008, Old Master Paintings Evening Sale, lot 71
The Siege of Asola
Sold for £1,142,500 ($1,956,670)
London, Christie’s, 8 July 2014, Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale, lot 42
The Battle between the Philistines and the Israelites
Sold for €907,500 ($997,801)
Vienna, Dorotheum, 18 October 2016, Old Master Paintings, lot 26