From February 25 to June 10, 2012 – Scuderie del Quirinale
JACOPO ROBUSTI (or CANAL), better known as TINTORETTO (1519-1594), is the only key Italian 16th century painter not to have had a major monographic exhibition devoted to his work to date. If we ignore the thematic exhibition of his portraits held in Venice in 1994, the last exhibition of the great Venetian master’s work was held in 1937, due among other reasons to the sheer physical impossibility of shifting the large canvases that he painted in Venice
The exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale is part of a broader programme designed to explore the work of those artists who have helped to make the story of art in our country so unique and so grandiose, ranging from Botticelli to Antonello da Messina, from Bellini to Caravaggio and, more recently, to Lorenzo Lotto and Filippino Lippi.
This exhibition, focusing on the three main themes that distinguish Tintoretto’s work: religion, mythology and portraiture, is strictly monographic and will be divided into sections comprising a handful of carefully selected and unquestioned masterpieces, beginning and ending with his two celebrated self-portraits of himself as a young man, from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and as an old man, from the Louvre. Even though he was in competition with Titian, his contemporaries yet recognized his “utterly exquisite eye in portraiture”, and some of his most famous portraits from leading international collections will be on display here in Rome.
Also on display will be the spectacular Miracle of the Slave painted in 1548 for the Scuola Grande di San Marco, a work that allowed him to grab the limelight as one of leading lights of the Venetian art scene, while the exhibition closes with The Deposition (1594) from the Monastry of San Giorgio Maggiore, possibly the last work in which it is possible to identify the hand of the master. Other famous works on show will include what is considered to be one of his first acknowledged paintings, Jesus Among the Doctors (1542) lent by the Milan Cathedral’s Diocesan Museum, and such celebrated masterpieces as the Madonna of the Treasurers and the Stealing of the Dead Body of St. Mark, both from the Gallerie dell’Accademia, and the St Mary of Egypt and the St Mary Magdalen from the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Visitors will also have the privilege of being able to witness the unprecedented and spectacular juxtaposition of the Last Supper from the Venetian church of San Trovaso with another version of the same subject, from the church of San Polo, painted five years later to celebrate one of the Scuole del Sacramento’s favorite themes.
Alongside the large canvases with their dramatic impact and their tense, rapid brushwork, visitors will also be able to inspect the artist’s intense historical and mythological works, charged with emotion, including, for example, the octagonal panels depicting Apollo and Daphne and Deucalion and Pyrrha, two of the fourteen made in 1541 for the ceiling of Casa Pisani and now in the Galleria Estense in Modena, or the splendid Susanna and the Elders from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
A major innovation at this exhibition is the commentary in the shape of texts in each room penned by Melania Mazzucco, a writer who has devoted numerous novels to, and written unforgettable pages on, Tintoretto and his circle. Her narrative will accompany visitors step by step, room by room, from the beginning to the end of the show.
This deliberately small exhibition comprises some 40 paintings (accompanied by a section devoted to the artistic environment contemporary with the Venetian master), all of the highest quality and on loan from leading international museums and collections, offering visitors a tight but extremely significant overview of the artistic career of Jacopo Tintoretto: that ‘tireless manual labourer’ as his fellow Venetian and art critic Boschin called him once and for all, ‘but without intending in any way to demean him’, as the great art critic Roberto Longhi pointed out, describing him in his turn as ‘a natural genius, a great inventor of dramatic tales that unfold in a choreography of vibrant light and shade… an endlessly entertaining performance.’