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قراءة كتاب Tintoretto

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Tintoretto

Tintoretto

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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caption">PLATE VI.—QUEEN ESTHER FAINTING BEFORE AHASUERUS

(Hampton Court Palace)

Here we have one of Tintoretto's spirited compositions in which he makes no attempt to adapt his costumes to the period of the Bible story. One and all the figures are sixteenth-century Venetians.


The more we study Tintoretto the more his mastery for every branch of his art becomes apparent. His composition is the more marvellous because he had not had the advantage of receiving inspiration from other masters. He carried composition farther than it had gone before, bringing to his aid in that work a certain dramatic instinct that does not seem to have been associated with the painter's workshop before his time. He redeemed Venetian painting from the charge of bad drawing that had been levied against it by the Florentines, and when we come to colour we find that Tintoretto has little or nothing to yield in this department even to Titian himself, and that he gets many of his finest effects from lower tones than those that appealed to his master. Some of his colour effects are less daring, less theatrical, less immediate in their appeal than those of Titian, but when they are understood they are hardly to be less admired, although we have to admit that in many cases they have been restored, and retouched by many well-meaning fools who did not understand the extraordinary delicacy of treatment that gave the canvas its pristine quality. A picture by Tintoretto in which the rich golden brown tints have survived the passages of the years and the hand of the restorer, is at once a thing to wonder at and be grateful for.

Like all great painters Tintoretto had little use for drawings. He did not believe in making elaborate studies; we can learn this from his first work for the Scuola of St. Roque, when he entered into competition with several big painters, and managed to present a finished picture to his startled patrons and competitors in the shortest possible time. Vasari tells the story, how the brotherhood decided to have some "magnificent and honourable work" on the ceiling of the Scuola, and asked Salviati, Zucchero, Paolo Cagliari (Veronese), and Tintoretto to prepare a design. "While the artists were giving themselves with all diligence to the preparations of their designs," writes Vasari, "Tintoretto made an exact measurement of the space for which the picture was required, and taking a large canvas he painted it at his usual speed, without taking any one into his confidence, and fixed it in the place destined to receive it. On the morning when the brotherhood assembled to see the designs and determine the matter, they found that Tintoretto had completed his work, that he had even fixed it in its place. At this they were very angry, saying that they desired designs, and had not commissioned him to do more than prepare one. Robusti replied that this was his method of preparing designs, and that he knew no other, that all designs and models for a work should be executed in this fashion to the end that persons interested might see what would be offered to them, and might not be deceived. Finding the brethren were still displeased, Tintoretto added that if they did not think fit to pay for the work, he would make a present of it to them for the sake of the saint from whom he had received much kindness. The brotherhood could say no more, for they dare not refuse a gift offered to their patron, and so the picture was accepted, and the brethren had to make their peace as best they could with the angry and disappointed competitors."

It would be pleasing to write at length about the work that Tintoretto contributed to the buildings of the brotherhood, but in the appendix to his third volume of the "Stones of Venice," John Ruskin has dealt so completely and so admirably with the master that those who are interested will find all they seek in his pages. In the lower hall are an "Annunciation," an "Adoration of the Magi," an "Assumption of the Virgin," a "Presentation of Jesus," and several others. In the upper hall there is the wonderful masterpiece of "St. Roque in Heaven," together with many pictures of the great heroes of Bible History, and the "Last Supper" that Velazquez copied. The refectory holds the great "Crucifixion," and eleven panels devoted almost entirely to single figures.

Tintoretto had a hard struggle to become the painter for the wealthy brotherhood, which had already commissioned work from Titian, Giorgione, Schiavone, and other men of light and leading, but when he had once secured a footing he did not lose the confidence of the brethren. They realised that the master was second to none in the honourable ranks of their painters, and indeed the brotherhood is best remembered to-day because it chose Tintoretto to paint so many of its masterpieces. It would have been a pleasant task to reproduce some of these works here, but it would have been impossible to put on a small page, with any hope of conveying a fair idea of their extraordinary fascination, the "Massacre of the Innocents," "Christ before Pilate," the "Crucifixion," or other pictures of that size. It has seemed better on this account to rest content for the most part with single figures, and to emphasise the one aspect of the painter's many merits. His mastery of composition must be left for those who go to Venice or to some other of the cities wherein the work is seen in all its glory.

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