Tintoretto, Giacopo

, a celebrated Italian painter, called Tintoretto, because he was a dyer’s son, for his real name was Robusti, was born at Venice in 1512. He was a disciple of Titian, who, having observed something extraordinary in his genius, dismissed him from his family, lest he should become his rival. He still, however, pursued Titian’s manner of colouring, as the most natural, and studied Michael Angelo’s style of design, as the most correct. Venice was the place of his constant abode, where he was made a citizen, and wonderfully beloved. He was called the Furious Tintorer, for his bold manner of painting with strong lights and deep shades, and for the rapidity of his genius. Our information respecting his personal history, detached from his public character, is but scanty; we are told that he was extremely pleasant and affable, and delighted so much in painting and music, his beloved studies, that he would hardly suffer himself to taste any other pleasures. He died in 1594, aged eighty-two.

It might be wished, says Mr. Fuseli, whose elaborate opinion of Tintoretto, we shall now transcribe, that the mean jealousy of Titian, and its meaner consequence, the expulsion of Tintoretto from his school, had been less authenticated. What has been said of Milton, that at certain periods he was but one of the people, might be true of Titian whenever he was not before his canvas. Folly, always a | principal, if not the chief, ingredient in the character of jealousy and ambition, generally runs into the extremes it wishes to avoid, and accelerates the effects it labours to repress. The genius of Tintoretto was not to be circumscribed by the walls of his master’s study; and to one who, under his eye, had the hardiness to think, and to choose for himself what he should adopt or not of his method, dismission was in fact emancipation. He now boldly aimed at erecting himself into the head of a new school, which should improve the principles of that established by Titian, and supply its defects: he wrote over the door of his apartment, “the design of Michael Angelo and the colour of Titian;” and this vast idea, the conception of an ardent and intrepid mind, he strove to substantiate by a course of studies equally marked by discretion and obstinate perseverance. The day was given to Titian, the night to Michael Angelo. The artificial light of the lamp taught him those decided masses, that energy of chiaroscuro, which generally stamps each group and single figure in his works. Whether he enjoyed the personal friendship of Michael Angelo (as Dot* tari thinks) may be doubted; that he procured casts from his statues, and copies from his frescoes, is evident from the incredible number of his designs after the former, and the various imitations and hints with which his works abound, from the latter. He modelled in wax and clay, and studied anatomy and the life to make himself master of the body, its proportions, its springs of motion, its foreshortenings, and those appearances which the 1 Italians distinguish by the phrase of “di sotto in su.” Add to this, exuberant fertility of ideas, glowing fancy, and the most picturesque eye; and what results might not have been expected from their union with such methods of study, had uniformity of pursuit, and equal diligence in execution, attended his practice?

That it did for some time, the “Miracle of the Slave,” formerly in the Scuola di S. Marco, and lately at Paris, which he painted at the age of thirty-six, and the “Crucifixion” in the Albergo of the Scuola di S. Rocco, are signal instances. The former unites, with equal ardour and justness of conception, unexampled fierceness and rapidity of execution, correctness and even dignity of forms, powerful masses of light and shade, and a more than Titianesque colour with all the fury of a sketch it has all the roundness and decision of finish j the canvas trembles this is the | vivid abstract of that mossa which Agostino Caracci exclusively ascribes to the Venetian school; and here Tintoretto has, as far perhaps as can be shewn, demonstrated what he meant by wishing to embody with the forms and breadth of Michael Angelo the glow and juice of Titian. If this stupendous picture have any flaw, it is perhaps that, in beholding it, the master appears to swim upon his work, and that S. Marc, and the miracle he descends to perform, are eclipsed by the ostentatious power of the artist. This is not what we feel when we contemplate the Capello Sistina, the “Pietro Martire” of Titian, or the “Crucifixion” mentioned before, by Tintoretto himself. The immediate impression which it makes on every one who for the first time casts a glance on its immense scenery, is that of a whole whose numberless parts are connected and subdued by a louring, mournful, minacious tone. All seems to be hushed in silence round the central figure of the Saviour suspended on the cross, with his fainting mother, and a group of male and female mourners at his feet; an assemblage of colours that less imitate than rival nature, a scale of hues for which Titian himself seldom offers a parallel, yet all tinged by grief, all equally overcast by the lut id tone that stains the whole, and like a meteor hangs in the sickly air: whatever inequalities or derelictions of feeling, whatever improprieties of common-place, of modern and antique costume, the master’s rapidity admitted to fill his space (and they are great), all vanish in the power which compresses them into a single point, and we do not detect them till we recover from our terror. With these the “Resurrection” too in the Scuola di S. Rocco may be placed, of which the magic chiaroscuro, the powerful blaze of the vision contrasted with the dewy distant light of dawn, and the transparence of the dark massy foreground, are but secondary beauties. If the “Resurrection” preserved among the arrazzi of Raphael be superior in extent of thought, in the choice of the characters admitted, the figure of Christ himself is greatly surpassed by the ideal forms and the serene dignity united to that resistless velocity which characterise Christ in the work of Tintoretto j whilst the celestial airs and graces of the angels balance by sublimity the dramatic variety displayed by Raphael.

But if Tintoretto, when he chose to exert his power, was equal to the greatest names, it is to be lamented with Agost. Caracci that he was too often inferior to himself, | when, goaded on by the rage of doing singly the work of all, perverted by a false ornamental principle, and debauched by unexampled facility of execution, he gave himself neither time to conceive, to judge, or to finish; when, content to snatch a whim if it had novelty, he turned his subject into a farce, or trampled its parts into undistinguished masses, and sacrificed min;!, design, character, and sense, to incongruous imagery, fugitive effect, and puerile allurements: it was in such a fit that, in the “Temptation of the Desert,” he placed Christ on a tree; hid him in a crowd in the picture of the “Pool of Bethesda;” and in another turned the “Salutation of the Virgin” into profane irruption. It has already been observed that Tintoretto was a learned designer, but his style was rather muscular and robust than select and characteristic; in his male forms we every where recognize the Venetian model: the gondoliers of the canal furnished his heroes and apostles with limbs and attitudes, In his females he aimed at something ideal; the ruling principle of their forms is agility, though they are often too slender for action, and too contrasted for grace. The principle of dispatch which generally ruled him, equally influenced his colour. Now he gives us all the impasto the juice and glow of Titian; now little more than a chiaroscuro tinged with fugitive glazings. The dark primings which he is said to have preferred, as they assisted his effects, perhaps accelerated the ruin of his tints. In his touch, if he was ever equalled, he certainly has never been excelled; his work as a whole and in parts seems to have been done at once.

Tintoretto had a son and a daughter, who both excelled in the art of painting; Marietta, the daughter, particularly. She was so well instructed by her father in his own profession, as well as in music, that in both arts she acquired great reputation; and was especially eminent for an admirable style in portraits. She married a German, and died in 1590, aged thirty, equally lamented by her husband and father; and so much beloved by the latter, that he never would consent she should leave him, though she had been invited by the emperor Maximilian, by Philip II. king of Spain, and several other princes, to their courts.

Dominico, his son, gave great hopes in his youth, that he would one day render the name of Tintoretto yet more illustrious than his father had made it; but, neglecting to cultivate by study the talent which nature had given him, | he fell short of what was expected from him. 4 He was more considerable for portraits than historical compositions; and died in 1637, aged seventy-five. 1

1

Pilkington, by Fuseli.—Argenville, vol. I.—Sir J. Reynold’s Works.