Saturday, 29 September 2012

'Esther before Ahasuerus' by Tintoretto

'Esther before Ahasuerus' (1547-48) by Tintoretto; Royal Collection, Windsor Castle

When you say Tintoretto, the great Italian painter who was born as Jacopo Comin on September 29, 1518, only his dark portraits come to mind and I feel like an art illiterate that I can't really tell you what his great paintings are or what he is known for. Tintoretto was one of the most important painters of the Italian Late Renaissance. His nickname 'Il Tintoretto' means 'the little dyer' and derives from his father's profession of dyer. He is usually described as a Mannerist painter and initally being inspired by the work of Michelangelo, he became increasingly concerned with the maximum use of chiaroscuro. He is said to have briefly studied with Titian but a mutual disliking caused an animosity between them that lasted throughout their careers. Unlike Titian, Tintoretto spent almost all of his life in Venice where his work is still to be seen in churches or other buildings. After Titian's death in 1576, he was one of the leading artists of Venice, together with Paolo Veronese. He was most productive between 1564 and his death in 1594. His most famous works are the pictorial decorations he made for the rooms of La Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice (click here to see one of the paintings on the ceiling, and to see more, click here). Also the four paintings he did for the Scuola Grande di San Marco (his St. Mark paintings) are considered to be masterpieces, click here. The painting I chose for today is a religious one of 'Esther before Ahasuerus', painted at a time that Tintoretto's career was about to take off. The artwork illustrates the Old Testament story of the Jewish heroine Esther who appears, unbidden, before the King Ahasuerus and pleads for her people, breaking court etiquette and risking her life. She had fasted for three days to prepare herself and faints in his presence. She gets her wish granted. I like this painting because of the story and the beautiful depiction and colours. And I love doing this blog because now I know more about the great Tintoretto and will never forget what he is known for.

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