The Venetian Legacy of Tintoretto and his Workshop

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Though it's been nearly 500 years since the birth of celebrated Venetian artist Jacopo Tintoretto, the artist’s singular ability to capture the effects of color, light and texture still delights and amazes viewers. Sotheby’s forthcoming sale of Master Paintings (22 May, New York) highlights the importance and breadth of this his œuvre. Along with Titian and Veronese, Tintoretto was one of the leading artists in Venice during the 16th century as the city thrived as one of the foremost commercial, cultural and artistic centers in all of Europe. From the artist and his flourishing family workshop arose myriad works that played a pivotal role in the development of the Venetian artistic tradition and helped to define the period as we know it today.  

Master Paintings
22 May | New York

The Venetian Legacy of Tintoretto and his Workshop

  • Jacopo Tintoretto, Allegory of Autumn. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    Likely around 1546, a young Jacopo Tintoretto completed this monumental canvas depicting a recumbent man as an Allegory of the Season of Autumn. This painting formed part of an impressive cycle of ceiling decorations for the Ca’ Barbo, a 15th-century Venetian palazzo belonging to the Barbo family. Although no longer intact, the original 16th-century ceiling can be largely reconstructed today, with many of the canvases now found in American museums, the present painting being the only known canvas from the series left in private hands. The central panel depicting an Allegory of the Dreams of Man is in the Detroit Institute of Arts, while Spring is in the Chrysler Museum and Summer in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

  • Jacopo Tintoretto, Allegory of Autumn (detail). Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    Here, a robust and youthful figure of a man, draped in fabric, reclines amongst a landscape of barren trees. The dramatic horizontal composition allows for the strength and size of this expertly rendered figure, interwoven among the foliage, to be on full display. What is clearly visible in the present painting, particularly when focusing on details, is that the young Tintoretto was reacting to a broad spectrum of influences from both inside and outside of Venice. Here, the athletic figure of the man recalls the style of Michelangelo and other central Italian artists, rather than the local prototypes he would have seen in Venice.

  • Jacopo Tintoretto, Portrait of a young nobleman, three quarter length, with a black velvet cap, doublet, and cape, resting his hand on a sword. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    Dated 1551, this impressive and engaging portrait of a young nobleman has long been recognized as an early work by Jacopo Tintoretto. What is clearly visible in this portrait, with its deep tones and its air of noble simplicity, is how indebted Tintoretto was to the elder Titian during the formative years in his career, though later he would diverge in style from the elder artist the two would become artistic rivals in the Venetian Republic.



     

  • Jacopo Tintoretto, Portrait of a young nobleman, three quarter length, with a black velvet cap, doublet, and cape, resting his hand on a sword (detail). Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    This portrait can be placed within the most important period of Tintoretto’s development as a portrait painter. The same year that the present work was completed, Tintoretto replaced Titian as the official portrait painter of the Venetian Republic – a position he secured through his social connections, the speed of his execution and the quality of his skills, as visible in the detailed and expert rendering of the sitter’s visage on the present work, with its beautifully molded contours and well constructed features. Tintoretto would remain one of the most important portrait painters in Venice until the end of his life, recognized for his nearly unrivaled ability to capture the true likeness and character of his sitters.

  • Domenico Tintoretto, The Flagellation of Christ. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    This large and striking canvas depicting The Flagellation of Christ is characteristic of the work of Domenico Tintoretto, the son of Jacopo Tintoretto, and can be placed stylistically towards the end of the 16th century. This subject was popular within the Tintoretto workshop, and other examples can be found in the National Gallery of Prague, the Musei Capitolini in Rome, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. That the present painting was once attributed to Jacopo is unsurprising, for Domenico closely emulated the style of his father early in his career, and many works leaving the Tintoretto workshop after 1580 are thought to have been a collaborative effort between father and son.

  • Domenico Tintoretto, The Flagellation of Christ (detail). Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    Although Domenico Tintoretto trained in his father’s workshop and took it over after Jacopo’s death in 1594, he completed his works with an individuality that distinguished him from his father, often visible in the rendering of the figures and their stances, as well as the folds of the fabric. Here, Domenico lends a degree of immediacy and drama to the scene by contrasting the stability of the central figure of Christ with the dynamic, twisting and powerful figures that surround him, particularly the figure in the right foreground.

  • Attributed to Domenico Tintoretto, Portrait of Tomasso Contarini (1488–1578). Estimate $60,000–80,000.
    Domenico Tintoretto gained recognition as an independent artist at a young age, having received entry to the Acccademia di San Luca at age seventeen. Like his father, Domenico was also accomplished in the realm of portraiture, having captured the likenesses of many royal and noble figures, including Margaret of Austria and Vincenzo I Gonzaga, 4th Duke of Mantua. The present portrait depicts Tommasso Contarini (1488–1578), one of the leading political figures in the Venetian Republic during the 16th century who hailed from the Madonna dell’Orto branch of the noble Contarini family.

  • Attributed to Domenico Tintoretto, Portrait of Tomasso Contarini (1488–1578) (detail). Estimate $60,000–80,000.
    Here, Tomasso Contarini is shown as a military figure, and recalls his election as the Capitano del Mar in 1558, when he was placed in charge of a large fleet in anticipation of a Turkish assault on Venetian possessions in the Mediterranean. The Latin inscription found in the upper right corner of this portrait, however, hints at the many additional offices that Tommasso once held while overseeing the military and civic infrastructure of the Republic.  He was podestà (or governor) of the city of Verona; provveditore generale of the Terraferma, procurator of San Marco de cintra (a lifetime office that was second only to the Doge in prestige); and he also served on the committee that began to replace the ruinous Rialto Bridge with its current and magnificent form.



     



    The inscription reads: TOHMAE / CONTARENO / D. M. PROC. / AMPLISSIMIS OM/ NIBVS.SVMMISQVE / REIP. MVNERIBVS / TERRA MARIQVE / EGRE-GIE. PERFVNCTO / EFIGIEM.

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