Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto), painter of the Italian Renaissance, son of a dyer of cloths from which he derives his nickname, was born in Venice in 1519 and spends all his life in his city, except for a trip to Rome and a visit to Mantua. Not to be confused with his son Domenico Robusti, also nicknamed "Tintoretto".
The only official document from which to derive data on the life of Tintoretto is the obituary kept in San Marziale that refers to the death of "Jacopo Robusti called Tintoretto", which took place on May 31, 1594, at the age of seventy-five.
Noting the natural inclination of his son for drawing, his father Battista Robusti placed him as an apprentice in the workshop of the great painter Tiziano Vecellio, still in his teens, to see if he had the qualities of the artist.
Some historians say that, after only ten days, Titian would have driven him out of his school, probably not out of jealousy, but because of artistic and character divergences, given the rebellious spirit of the young pupil, jokingly called by his fellow "pepper corn" and limited patience of Titian who was already 56 years of age.
In any case, from this moment on, the two painters never got closer: Tintoretto has always remained an ardent admirer of Titian, but never a friend, while the teacher and his followers pretended not to know him.
Jacopo Robusti continued to study alone, with sacrifices and effort. Using Michelangelo's models, he became an expert in wax and clay modeling, as Tiziano Vecellio did, which later turned out to be useful in the elaboration of his paintings and the realization of his idea of art and of his personal ambition summarized in the inscription in evidence in his study "The drawing of Michelangelo and the color of Titian".
Towards 1546 Tintoretto painted for the church of the Madonna dell'Orto three of his principal works: Adoration of the Golden Calf, the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple and the Last Judgment now shamefully repainted.
In 1548 he was hired for four images in the Scuola Grande di San Marco: The discovery of the body of San Marco in Alessandria (now in the church of the Angels, Murano), Corpo del Santo brought to Venice, a devotee of the demoniacent Saint (these two are in library of the royal palace, Venice), and the great and justly celebrated slave miracle, with which Tintoretto is imposing to the general attention.
In his works the Tizian imprint is still evident, especially in the chromatic choices and Michelangelo's perfection in the anatomy of the bodies.
About fifteen years later, commissioned by the same Scuola Grande (1562), Tintoretto painted other paintings depicting the miracles of San Marco, among which stands out "The discovery of the body", a shining episode conceived within an ambitious iconographic program comprising the "Stories of the Passion", of the "Ancient" and of the "New Testament", the "Stories of the Infancy of the Virgin and of Christ".
In the "Bronze Serpent", placed in the great hall of the School, the fusion of natural and supernatural is expressed in an admirable representative efficacy.
In May 1564 the councilors of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco decided to have the "Albergo" ceiling - the meeting room of the "junta" - at their own expense, in the new building built behind the apse of the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Friars.
Tintoretto, invited to take part in the competition, presents a model for a painting representing "The glory of San Rocco". Thus began a collaboration, destined to last twenty years (it will end only in 1587), which will ensure that the rooms of the Scuola di San Rocco are filled with works of the artist, to constitute an immense poem, whose importance has been sometimes compared to that of the Brancacci Chapel in Florence or the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
The scenes with "Christ before Pilate", the "Salita al Calvario" and the Crucifixion reveal a mature style and a figurative line that suffers from a marked theatricality in the narrative illustration and a remarkable sensitivity for spatial and dynamic values.
Between 1575 and 1581 Tintoretto painted, in the Great Hall on the first floor of the Scuola di San Rocco, next to the Albergo, first the ceiling paintings with biblical themes, then those of the walls with evangelical themes: remarkable, for their originality and color , the "Adoration of the shepherds".
Between 1583 and 1587 the great cycle of San Rocco is completed, with the realization of the paintings of the Inferior Room, which include several scenes of the "Life of the Virgin" and of the "Infancy of Christ", "Saint Mary Magdalene reading" and "Santa Maria Egizìaca in meditation".
While he waits for the paintings of the Scuola di San Rocco, Tintoretto also paints for private individuals, for churches, for the government: among his last labors, the decoration of a wall of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in Palazzo Ducale, with the depiction of " Paradiso ", an immense canvas entrusted mostly to his collaborators and to his son Domenico Robusti who dealt with the details of the drapery, but which reveals the painter's considerable creative effort.
In the last paintings, made between 1592 and 1594 for the presbytery of San Giorgio Maggiore ("Collection of the manna", "Last Supper", "Deposition of Christ in the Sepulcher"), the dramatic tension typical of his compositions reaches accents sometimes at times visionaries, sometimes more intimate spiritual concentration.
Caused by fever and stomach pains that prevented him from eating and sleeping for a fortnight, Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, died on 31 May 1594 and was buried in the church of Madonna dell'Orto alongside his daughter Marietta .
In addition to the great religious works many portraits remain of him that the painter knew how to perform with extraordinary speed.