Newsflash: "Precious Tintorettos leaving Venice for Madrid's Prado for rare exhibit"

My initial reaction to Tintoretto was, sad to say, along the lines of a Black Velvet Elvis... He plays so much with light (and the lack thereof!) that he can seem kind of dowdy next to the great Venetian colorists. But I've since developed a soft spot for Tintoretto and his vast work. As they say in this article, you can't beat Venice to get the full breath and depth of his work, but if a trip to Venice or Madrid isn't in your immediate future, maybe one of these museums is in your neighborhood instead... Enjoy!!

Precious Tintorettos leaving Venice for Madrid's Prado for rare exhibit

By Frances D'Emilio, Canadian Press
Saturday, December 02, 2006

VENICE, Italy (AP) - With some apprehension, Venice is letting several of its precious Tintorettos travel to Madrid for a rare retrospective of one of its most prolific painters, celebrated for his virtuosity in brush stroke and inventive use of perspective.

Three churches and the Academy painting gallery, which holds the most important collection of Venetian painting, have agreed to loan a total of six works of the 16th Century artist to be key pieces in an ambitious exhibit at the Madrid's Prado museum Jan. 29-May 13.

Venice's show in 1937 was the last major exhibit of works by Jacopo Tintoretto, whose long life - 76 years - allowed him leave a large handprint on Venetian painting.

The generally enormous physical dimensions of the artist's works - many are more than four metres wide - and where he painted them - often on ceilings or walls of palaces or chapels - can be intimidating for those dreaming of a retrospective.

"There was almost considered to be a curse" of Tintoretto for those wanting to do a major show of his work, said Gabriele Finaldi, deputy director at the Prado for collections and research.

Finaldi and other Prado officials felt first hand some of the anxiety and reluctance of Venetian art caretakers as they toured some of the churches lending paintings.

The pastor of San Marcuola church, where Tintorettos cover two side walls in the altar area, said he decided he would only let the "Last Supper" leave on loan if the Prado would pitch in financially toward the upkeep of the church.

"The parishioners agree with me because they have to shell out of their pockets" to help pay for a US$250,000 roof repair, said the Rev. Federico Niero.
"We didn't put a price on the loan, but we want some help" the priest said. If the Prado was going to show off the church's star Tintoretto, the museum should contribute toward protecting the church's artistic treasures from dampness, said the priest, who worried that the painting might be damaged when removed.

The show's curator, Miguel Falomir, told journalists last week at another church that the Prado would make a contribution "as a way to show our gratitude." He didn't cite a figure.

The San Trovaso Church's "Last Supper," one of the more striking examples of how Tintoretto dramatically experimented with perspective, is also going to the Prado. In the painting, the table comes at the viewer diagonally. The arm of a diner, one of the apostles, seems to almost reach out of the painting as he grabs for a jug.

Both churches now hold copies of other Tintoretto masterpieces which left Venice centuries ago and made their way through various monarchs' collections before ending up in foreign museums.

San Trovaso's "Last Supper" is paired with a copy of the "Washing of the Feet" scene. The original is in London's National Gallery.

"If we lose this one, too," said the church's pastor, Rev. Silvano Brusamento, his voice trailing off anxiously as Falomir lectured to a group of Spanish journalists about the ingenious perspective in the "Last Supper."

"I wasn't in agreement" about the loan, said Brusamento. "There is always a risk . . . I'm worried."

The National Gallery's "Washing of the Feet" won't be travelling to Madrid for the show but another Tintoretto depiction of the Holy Thursday scene of Jesus and his apostles, originally in San Marcuola church, will be displayed because the Prado owns it, Finaldi said.

Among others loaning some of the 50 paintings and 20 drawings for the Prado show are the British Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, New York's Metropolitan and the Edinburgh National Gallery.

With Venice virtually a permanent exhibition of Tintoretto's talents, the question arises: why bother to group so many of them in a retrospective when visitors to the lagoon city can make their own leisurely exploration of the artist?
"It is true, to see Tintoretto properly, you have to go to Venice," said a Venetian painting school specialist, David Rosand, a Columbia University art history professor now on leave.

But exhibits let visitors study artworks close up and often in better lighting than in museums or churches. That is particularly vital with Tintoretto, whose works "you need binoculars to get close to," said Rosand in a telephone interview from his home in New York.

With Tintoretto, "the brush work is so much a part of the painting," said the professor, and close-up viewing helps this appreciation.

Curator Falomir said it long has been difficult to identify all the works done by Tintoretto and those done by his children - three of them became painters - or by his "bottega" or workshop.

"The sheer variety of hands" that worked on the paintings is daunting for scholars, said Rosand. Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese and Rubens had "industrial" production sized workshops, said the professor.

But while Tintoretto's workshop helped in executing works commissioned for palaces of the rich and noble, the artist was believed to have mainly executed his paintings in churches himself.

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