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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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the subject treated. He knew that if objects were painted with equal values and the meticulous care of the miniaturist the canvas would only yield its fruit to those who could stare right into it. These facts were a pleasant revelation to him and an unpleasant one to his contemporaries. His work was destined to influence Velazquez—Velazquez influenced Goya, the mantle of Goya fell upon Edouard Manet, and Manet founded the great impressionist school of France that has been doing work of extraordinary merit and enduring interest while schoolmen of contemporary generations have been concerned with telling stories in terms of paint and harking back to the pre-Raphaelities.

The modern work suffers more from neglect and disregard than that of the great masters of old time, because nowadays it is possible to multiply the lowest and most popular class of picture and scatter it broadcast among those who have no knowledge of the aims and objects of art. They think that a picture is bound to be a good one if it should chance to appeal to them, forgetful that their lack of taste may have as much as anything to do with the appeal of the work. A picture may please an observer because the picture is great or because the observer is small, but the latter alternative is hardly popular with those who go conscientiously to galleries.

Vasari tells us many stories of Tintoretto's inexhaustible activity. Ridolfi does the same, and it is easy to understand why a man who could not keep his brush from his hand for any length of time, and would accept any price or any commission rather than remain idle, was rather a terror to his contemporaries, and earned the title of "Il Furioso" by which he was widely known. Few artists in the world's history have achieved so much, for although we know of countless frescoes and pictures that have perished utterly, we still have something like six hundred works left to stand for the seventy-five years of the painter's life, and some of these, such as the works in the Doges' Palace, are crowded with figures. Indeed the work in the Doges' Palace might well stand for the life's monument of any artist however long-lived and industrious.

It is no fault of Tintoretto that his work baffles the tired eye. He cannot be studied in a day, or two days, or even three; you cannot go to him from other painters. He demands the closest and most enduring attention together with some expert guidance on the occasion of the first visit in order that the countless points in crowded canvas may not be overlooked. He was a man of such breadth of vision, his conceptions were so magnificent that he must be approached with something akin to reverence. We cannot go to him as to Titian or Bellini and feel that we can bring to the merit of each canvas the necessary amount of appreciation. While the "Paradiso" took years to complete, some of Tintoretto's smaller canvases took many months in the making, although the painter has never been excelled in the rapidity of execution. He who hopes to digest in half-an-hour the work that took Tintoretto half a year imagines a vain thing. To read some of the criticism that has been meted out to Tintoretto is to realise that their own limitations have given serious trouble to some of his critics, because he is so vast and so splendid in his themes, and so extraordinarily brilliant in his treatment, he has baffled one generation after another. His theory of relative values has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, but to see him in his true light it is necessary to consider how many of his successors could paint a large figured picture on anything approaching the same scale with an equal measure of intelligence. Nowadays we do not look for heroic achievement; and it is perhaps as well, seeing that there is none to be had.


(National Gallery, London)

This remarkable work is one of the finest examples of Tintoretto in England. Composition and colouring are alike masterly and though some of the beauty of paint has passed, the St. George and the Dragon remains a striking work.


Thanks to Carlo Ridolfi we can form a fairly correct idea of the conditions under which young Tintoretto lived in the early days. The expulsion from Titian's studio must have been a very serious blow to his hopes and ambitions, but he did not repine unduly—he was made of sterner stuff. He took a small apartment and began those unremitting labours that were to land him in the first rank of draughtsmen. Through Daniele da Volterra, a pupil of Michaelangelo, he secured the models of the master's work that were to teach him so much about anatomy, and were to be used for experiments in foreshortening, and the treatment of light and shade. He had one friend, an artist known as Schiavone, a man almost as poor as himself in those first days of struggle and disappointment—a man who had likewise sought instruction in Titian's studio but had left it without incurring that great master's ill-will. One of the earliest commissions that fell to Schiavone was for the decoration of St. Mark's Library, but Tintoretto had to wait longer for work, and some years would seem to have passed before he realised his ambition and received a commission to paint altar-pieces. There are some workers to whom enforced idleness would be fatal, and Tintoretto might have been one of them, but for the fact that he had no capacity for indolence, and would work even though he worked for nothing.

The first church to give him a commission would seem to be that of Santa Maria del Carmine, and the impression that he gave to his masters must have been a very favourable one, for we find that the churches of St. Benedetto and Santo Spirito gave him orders soon after. Then the Scuola della Trinita recognised his talent, and gave him an order for certain pictures, including the famous "Death of Abel" and the equally famous "Adam and Eve," of which John Ruskin said, "this in absolute power of painting is the supremest work in all the world." These Scuoli or confraternities were both wealthy and powerful bodies, able and eager to give valuable commissions to artists. They would often grant permanent pay and regular work to the man whose accomplishment satisfied their requirements, and the work that remains to us shows that the directors of the Scuoli were men of taste and discretion.

As soon as Tintoretto felt that he was within sight of the goal of his ambitions he married, choosing for his wife one Faustina of Vescovi, the daughter of a patrician house, and a woman who seems to have realised that her husband's devotion to the ideals of art were likely to make him a very bad business man. Like many of the wives of clever men she played the tyrant in matters that did not concern the studio, and the painter would seem to have evaded some of her regulations for his comfort by saying the thing that was not. We would not say that he originated the habit, but it is said to have become popular and traces of it are still found among husbands in the twentieth century. Tintoretto took a house in the west end of Venice on the Fondamenta dei Mori overlooking Murano, and there he worked hard and lived simply. He must have been a man of engaging manner and amusing conversation, because