How prideful was the Renaissance painter Tintoretto? He once turned down a knighthood from French king Henry III because, it is said, he did not want to kneel down.
The 16th-century Venetian master, who was so productive that he was known as Il Furioso, is the subject of an exhibition that opened in Rome this past weekend.
“Tintoretto was the most controversial painter of his time,” Melania Mazzucco, one of the organizers and a Tintoretto expert. “His experimental way of painting, the speed with which he worked and his prolific aspect, his aggressive and competitive character evoked very strong reactions among his contemporaries.”
The exhibition, which follows the painter’s career from his days as an ambitious disciple of Titian to a bitter old age, focuses on the three main themes that distinguish the artist’s work: religion, mythology and portraiture. It runs through June.
Tintoretto, born in 1518, owed his nickname to his father who was a manufacturer of dyes (“tinta” in Italian). He became one of the greatest practitioners of the Venetian style.
The exhibition begins with one of his monumental works “The Miracle of the Slave,” painted in 1548 and measuring 14 feet by 18 feet.
The choice of putting a slave at the center of the painting instead of the saint who is rescuing him was considered scandalous at the time, according to Agence France-Presse.
Another masterpiece in the show is “The Theft of the Body of Saint Mark” (1564) showing a group of Christians in Alexandria removing the saint’s body from a bonfire that has been miraculously extinguished by rain.
Apart from religious and mythological subjects, Tintoretto also painted hundreds of portraits. These provided a steady source of revenue from aristocrats, writers and celebrities that he used for contacts and protection, according to the wire service.
His final years were cruel to the artist. His daughter Marietta, a portrait painter of considerable skill, died in 1590 at age 30, followed by his son, Giovanni Battista.
His last self-portrait shows a somber and humbled Tintoretto, his face marked by the harshness of life. Tintoretto himself died in 1594
His last child died in a convent in 1652, leaving him without descendants.