UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Jacopo Robusti, 1519-1594

Nationality: Italian
Date of Birth: 1519
Place of Birth: Venice
Date of Death: 1594.05.31
Place of Death: Venice, Italy

Identity:

Jacopo Robusti, 'Tintoretto', was a Venetian painter. His father, Giovanni Battista Robusti, was a cloth-dyer. Tintoretto had a daughter, Marietta (c. 1554-90), and a son, Domenico (1560-1635). Both were painters.

Life:

At the Whistler v. Ruskin trial in 1878, Tintoretto's The Miracle of St Mark or the Miracle of the Slave (1547-48; Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice), one of the artist's principal Venetian works, commissioned by the Scuola Grande di San Marco and initially rejected, was cited by JW's counsel as having been completed in only fifteen days (#12001), Ruskin's defense having objected to the lack of finish and labour of JW's work. The plaintiff's citation of the work of Tintoretto had particular poignancy as Ruskin greatly admired Tintoretto as a moral and spiritual painter who epitomised the notion of the 'Imagination Penetrative'. However, according to Alan Summerly Cole, Ruskin's appreciation of Tintoretto was only 'literary' and he had 'no joy in the painter's work - [...] no understanding of the decorative arrangement' (#06766).

JW could not be criticised on such grounds. In January 1880 Alan Summerly Cole reported in his diary that, according to Wickham Flower, who had met up with JW in Venice, JW was 'much delighted' with the paintings by Tintoretto in Venice (#13132). Interestingly, while in this city, JW drew the house where Tintoretto lived (Fondamente dei Mori (M.760)), and also a house decorated by Tintoretto's son Domenico (San Giovanni Apostolo et Evangelistae (M.783)). In his 'Ten O'Clock' lecture of 1885 JW defined art as 'a goddess of dainty thought - reticent of habit... selfishly occupied with her own perfection... seeking and finding the beautiful in all conditions and in all times... As did Tintoret and Paul Veronese, among the Venetians'. JW so admired the work of Tintoretto that at times he used photographs of his work for sources for his own compositions. For example, the pose of The Nude Model Reclining (Nude Model, Reclining (C.73); 1893, lithograph; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) appears to be derived from Tintoretto's Venus, of which JW owned a photograph. He used a similar pose in a number of his compositions. Mother and Child - The Pearl (M.1290) has also been compared to Tintoretto's The Birth of the Milky Way, another of the photographs in JW's collection.

Bibliography:

Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Nichols, Tomas, 'Jacopo Tintoretto', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 9 April 2003).