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Venice 2014

The Emergence of Tintoretto

Tintoretto, Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan

Tintoretto, Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan (1570's) Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Oil on canvas. 49 5/8 x 41 15/16 in. (126 x 106.6 cm) 

In his article, “Reflections on Tintoretto as a Portraitist,” W. R. Rearick establishes Titian as responsible for the evolution of Venetian portraiture, however he reexamines the role of Tintoretto and how he later refines portraiture. With Titian’s characteristics of “fierce tensions in an opulent refinement of sensuous surface and a more spaciously comfortable range of pose,”[1] he became the most desired portraitist in Venice. However in 1538, Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto, entered the scene and introduced a new, naturalistic aspect to Venetian portraiture. Tintoretto depicted several of the Doges of Venice in full-length or three-quarter length portraits. Tintoretto also deviates from the use of a solid color background, and instead introduces the inclusion of the window which gives the viewer a glimpse out into the city of Venice. In his Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan (1570’s), instead of the window, Tintoretto depicts a rich red curtain. His portrait of Doge Loredan presents the Doge elderly yet capable man, as he assumed office of the Doge when he was 85 years old. His expression is both placid and hospitable. Tintoretto does not follow Titian’s example of communicating fierce and at times, intimidating expressions and body language in this work. With his soft gaze and open arms, his right hand appearing to make a sign of welcome, Tintoretto’s Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan accentuates the sagacious countenance of Doge Loredan. In his paintings, Tintoretto’s figures make direct eye contact with the viewer and seem to welcome the observer of the work. However, in the work of Bronzino, especially in his portraits of the Medici, eye contact is mostly avoided and there is a feeling of distance between the viewer and Bronzino’s figures. 

[1] Rearick, W.R. “Reflections on Tintoretto as a Portraitist,” Artibus et Historiae 16, no. 31 (1995), 52. 

Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici

Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici, (1540), Oil on panel. 

This aspect of distance can been seen in Bronzino’s Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici (1540), as well in the aforementioned works such as his Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici from 1545. In this portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Duke of Florence is shown in the typical three-quarter pose repeatedly used by Bronzino. His eyes avert the viewer’s and are instead directed to the right, similar to Titian’s Portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti. Unlike the portrait of Doge Gritti, one does not feel as if they are in the presence of Cosimo. There is a disconnect between the sitter and the viewer, creating a sense of impersonality in the portraits by Bronzino. By incorporating open windows and placing the figures within interior settings, Tintoretto’s portraits of the Doges do not convey this sense of impersonality. In his portraits, the viewer and his figures share the same space. Tinoretto’s use of open windows in his portraits of the Doges not only conveys this notion of collective space, but their use also literally gives the viewer a glance out into Venice and the climate of the 16th century.