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قراءة كتاب Tintoretto

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‏اللغة: English


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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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reproach from Venice, and, while he learned to draw in fashion that left the Florentine schools nothing to teach, he followed Gian Bellini and Titian into the domain of colour, and his work to-day reveals many of the best qualities of the two Italian schools of art in happy combination. When he was fully equipped according to his lights, and was prepared to enter into competition with the men around him, Tintoretto set out boldly to achieve the best results—he knew what he could do even if he did not know what the accomplishment was worth. It was not a part of his mental attitude to rest content with work done for those who sought the service of second-class men. "The form of Michelangelo, the colour of Titian;" these were the achievements he sought to realise, and he wrote these words on the wall of his workshop in the same spirit as that in which pious Hebrews still put the declaration of their faith upon the doorposts of their houses. He understood that Michelangelo Buonarotti had said the last word in form, and that Titian had gone as far in the direction of colour. Not until he was armed with patiently acquired skill, extraordinary natural aptitude, and a temperament that could not be satisfied with anything less than complete success, did he feel prepared to take the world of art by storm, and then he had put to the credit of his record a measure of hard work that no other painter could show.

For the first few years Tintoretto had to strive in the ranks of men who, whatever their gifts, had more chances than he. Venice was full of artists; commissions did not always depend upon merit, influence and favour counted for a great deal, and the clever son of an obscure dye-worker could hardly reach the goal of his ambitions without a long period of waiting. Things had altered from the days when Titian came from the mountains of Cadore to the studio of Gian Bellini, there was now so much talent in Venice that a man might have good gifts and yet go hungry. Art had widened its boundaries, developed the importance of its expression and the scope of its appeal, offering wealth and reputation to those who could succeed in impressing the statesman, churchman, or conqueror who held the patronage of the arts to be one of the special privileges of their state.

In Florence the tendency was to treat art as one branch of the many-sided profession of life. The artist of the day was sculptor and architect as well; sometimes he was engineer and statesman, he took every field of activity for his labours, and certainly the success of the great men whose range of endeavour was so wide was quite remarkable. Happily the Venetians were less ambitious. Bellini, who is, in the colour sense, the father of Venetian art, had a comparatively restricted outlook. Titian, his pupil, went farther afield and divorced art from the church, doubtless Giorgione had he lived would have helped to make that divorce more effective. Tintoretto, who was Titian's pupil, just as Titian had been Bellini's, was content to give all his energies, his extraordinary industry, and his great gifts to the service of painting. He could not enlarge the boundaries because Titian had carried them already into the domain of mythology, allegory, and portrait painting, and the time had not yet come when landscape could stand by itself. But Tintoretto, though he could not develop the theme, managed to develop the treatment, and became in a sense to be discussed later on the "father" of impressionism. This was his special service to art, and must be regarded as a remarkable discovery when we see how firmly fixed were the ordinary painters' conventions in handling subjects. Titian had broken away from the restrictions on subject matter, it was left to Tintoretto to revolt against the conventional handling, but this revolt was of course the product of late years. He began where his masters were leaving off, and he ended by being a law to himself. It will be seen, judging by the statements of his biographers, and particularly that of Ridolfi to whom we have referred, that the young painter's gifts and his habit of thinking for himself and following his theories into the realm of practice were in the way of his advancement. He worked so rapidly that the people to whom he applied in the first instance for commissions were a little suspicious. They could not understand how a man who painted with lightning rapidity and was prepared to sell his labour for any price, however small, could claim to be taken seriously. His cleverness made them afraid. They do not seem to have understood the type of artist that works because work is the very first law of life, and is content with a small return, knowing that when once the proper chance has come it will be possible to command a better price.


This extraordinary painting to be seen to-day at the National Gallery reveals not only the artist's vivid imagination but the wonderful skill with which he can present a flying figure and leave it as though supported in mid air. Students of Tintoretto will not fail to note the resemblance between the flying figure here and the one in "The Miracle of the Slave" in the Venetian Academy.

The general feeling about Jacopo Robusti is perhaps summed up by Giorgio Vasari in his "Lives." "He is a great lover of the arts," says our gossip; "he delights in playing on various musical instruments; he is a very agreeable person, but as far as painting is concerned he has the most capricious hand, and the boldest, most extravagant, and most obstinate brain that ever belonged to painter. Of this the proof lies in his works and in their fantastic composition so different from the usage of other painters. Indeed, Robusti becomes more than ever extravagant in his recent inventions, and the strange fancies that he has executed as it were almost without design, as though he aimed to show that art is but a jest. He will sometimes present as finished, sketches which are just such mere outlines that the spectator sees before him pencil marks made by chance, the result of a bold carelessness rather than the fruits of design and judgment."

These are significant words only when we consider that they were written at a time when Tintoretto was alive, and Vasari must have been moved to great excess of zeal to have gone so far in the painter's dispraise. Indeed he closes his little sketch by remarking that Tintoretto after all is a very clever man and a highly commendable painter. The special interest of the criticism lies in its revelation of the attitude of his contemporaries towards Tintoretto. For more than a century art had been moving, pictures had ceased to be flat, the difficulties of chiaroscuro were being faced rather than shirked. Atmosphere was growing, the problems of perspective were deemed worthy of careful study. Colour was not only brilliant, but the secret of mixing colours long since lost and apparently irrecoverable was known in the studios of the leading men. But the very earliest lessons of impressionism had yet to be taught, and realism had rendered dull and lifeless pictures that were hung rather beyond the reach of the spectator's close scrutiny. Tintoretto saw that work must be handled in such a fashion that the spectator who stood some distance away could get an impression of the whole of