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قراءة كتاب Tintoretto

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‏اللغة: English


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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

Ridolfi has recorded many amusing little facts about him in his famous volume of biographies.


(From the Venetian Academy)

This is another of Tintoretto's official pictures. The Procurator, a man whose singular dignity is not affected by his rather coarse and heavy features, is wearing beautiful robes that are now beginning to fade.

Clearly Tintoretto believed that Titian was his enemy, although we do not find that the younger man took any steps to demonstrate his ill-will. It would seem that many men who came to Tintoretto's studio could talk of nothing but Titian's virtues, and that this conversation tired the younger man, who at last put an end to the gossip very cleverly. He secured an incomplete canvas by Titian and painted a figure into it, then he sent the picture to the house of his friend Contarino, where the gossips who dabbled in literature and art were accustomed to assemble. All who saw the picture praised it to the skies, and when they had finished chattering Tintoretto remarked that the work they admired so much was painted partly by himself. Thereafter the gossips seem to have found some other topics of conversation, and Tintoretto was able to pursue his paths in peace without suffering from comparisons that must have been odious.

The painter's union was blessed with children, of whom his daughter Marietta was perhaps his favourite. Until she was fifteen years of age she used to accompany her father through Venice dressed as a boy. She learned a great deal from him, and became a portrait painter, dying some little time before her father, to his great grief. Some few of Tintoretto's remarks have come down to us. He is said to have held that black and white are the most beautiful colours, and with the record of this opinion it becomes curious to see in Tintoretto's pictures how the splendid colouring that was needed to express his work in the days when he was young grew more and more sombre as time passed on, until the dominant tone became the golden brown that is familiar to students of his pictures. As a young man he revelled in bright colours, but in middle and old age their charm passed. There is something very human about this attitude towards externals. Tintoretto placed a very great importance upon drawing, more importance indeed than any of the Venetians had placed upon it before his time. He thought very little of copies from the nude, being no believer in the beauty of the average nude form, and holding that the hand of the artist is necessary in order to express to the full the beauty that the lines of the body suggest. One pauses to wonder how he would have regarded Schopenhauer's criticism of the female form.

Tintoretto had two sons, who became his pupils when they were old enough; he was more fortunate in his family than was his great master and rival, and his home life would seem to have been a tranquil one, because we have learned from Vasari that he was a good musician, and played well on several instruments. Music does not flourish in unhappy homes. He could not have entertained as Titian did, because throughout his life he was a comparatively poor man, but he gathered round him some of the most interesting people in his native city and, with the exception of Titian and Aretino, all seemed to have been well pleased with him. Aretino, of course, being the greatest gossip of his century, could not keep his tongue quiet under any circumstances, and never hesitated to say an unpleasant thing as long as it had wit or humour. Tintoretto bore with his old master's factotum as long as he could, and then his patience giving out, invited him to the studio and proceeded to take his measure with a naked dagger, recording it as though he was going to paint a portrait. Aretino, who seems to have been an arrant coward, took the hint and controlled his unruly tongue. Perhaps he realised that it was unnecessary as well as unwise to provoke a man who asked for nothing better than to be allowed to spend his life in hard work free from interruption.

It is quite likely that Tintoretto's amazing gifts, together with his capacity for hard work, would have brought him very rapidly to the front, had not Titian been the pride of the Venetians, but while the great painter from Cadore dominated the City of the Lagoons no other man could hope to stand beside him, and certainly Tintoretto did not improve his own chances by his violent early search for work, and his startling offers to paint pictures of any size for any price. Inasmuch as he did not place a high value upon his own work, it was unreasonable to expect that his patrons would fall into the error of over-praising it. In setting a value upon their own work most men remember that they are sellers, nor is it the business of buyers to raise the price.

It is no easy task to hunt out Tintoretto's countless pictures in Venice. Including panels, altar-pieces, and portraits, the work in the Doges' Palace, in the Accademia, and the collections of private owners, there must be of this painter's work well-nigh three hundred examples whose authenticity is beyond dispute, while, needless to say, there are plenty of pictures to be found in the collections of dealers and amateurs that have rather more than a suspicion of Robusti's hand, though they can hardly claim to be painted by him alone. Like all other masters Tintoretto had his pupils, and his children and pupils between them would appear to be very largely responsible for some of the pictures that bear his name. To add to the difficulties of the visitor, Tintoretto has suffered more than most men from exposure, neglect, and repainting. The salt-savoured air of Venice is by no means the best in the world for pictures; and candles, though they may save their pious purchasers from many years' suffering in Purgatory, have an awkward habit of smoking and spoiling the altar pictures that stand before them. Candle smoke respects neither madonna nor saint, and though raised with the best intentions, will destroy masterpiece or daub with equal certainty and indifference. In Tintoretto's time piety was more fashionable than art criticism, and his pictures have suffered very much from the devotion they have inspired in the breasts of those to whom candles were a short-cut to salvation. Happily the Scuola of St. Roque, with its countless beautiful works of the master on panel and ceiling and staircase, still preserves a great deal of its original beauty. The Doges' Palace has a splendid collection, including the famous "Paradise" in the Hall of Council, while other apartments in the palace boast specimens of the master's most inspired work. The Royal Palace, and that of Prince Giovanelli, are very rich in the fruit of Tintoretto's labours, while the Academy of Fine Arts from which a part of the pictures given here were taken, holds some of the painter's masterpieces in really favourable positions.

In the Doges' Palace the neck and back of the man who wishes to study Tintoretto must endure constant strain, and the great compositions are so hard to understand that headache often anticipates comprehension, and appreciation gets no chance. The Academy is not too crowded, save at the season of the great American invasion, and there it is possible to enjoy Tintoretto quietly.