This unfinished sketch records one stage of Tintoretto’s preparation of a large votive painting of Doge Alvise Mocenigo destined for a room (the Sala del Collegio) in the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Mocenigo ruled at the time of Venice’s great victory at sea over the Turks, the Battle at Lepanto of 1571, represented in the sketch by the ships in the background, and during the ferocious plague of 1576 (which killed the painter Titian), after which he pledged to build the great church of the Redentore designed by Palladio. In the sketch the artist mapped out the principal figures, including rudimentary ideas for the figure of Saint Mark to the left of the kneeling Doge, and painted the silhouette of the saint’s lion on a dark ground in the lower left. The beautiful figure of Christ at the left was completely rethought in the final composition. For more on this important commission see metmuseum.org/collections.
The present picture is a study for a large painting in the Sala del Collegio (Cabinet of Government) of the Doge’s Palace in Venice (see Additional Images, fig. 1). This hall, decorated with works by Veronese and Tintoretto, was the place where the cabinet met under the doge’s chairmanship and the members received their most important visitors. The scene represents an interesting variation on the votive painting popular in Venice. In these the doge usually kneels in front of Christ or other saints, but here Alvise Mocenigo (doge from 1570 until his death in 1577) is portrayed in a prominent position at the center of the composition. Christ descends towards him supported by angels. The heavenly court floating on the left is counterbalanced by the presence of four saints on the right, three of them associated with the Mocenigo family (the fourth has not yet been convincingly identified). Doge Alvise is paired with Saint Louis of Toulouse (Alvise is the Venetian form of Louis), while his brothers, Giovanni and Nicolò, both active in the government, must be paired with Saints John the Baptist and Nicholas of Bari. Alvise’s brothers are identified in the two small figures behind Doge Alvise, barely visible in the sketch but more clearly represented in the final version of the painting. Their inclusion in the scene emphasizes a dynastic component in Alvise’s commission, commonly considered inappropriate in Venetian state images.
The differences between this sketch and the final painting have been explained in light of a change in the commission’s program. When Alvise Mocenigo commissioned the canvas from Tintoretto, around 1571–74, Venice was celebrating one of its major victories against the Turks at Lepanto. Although the doge did not take active part in the battle, he intended his votive painting to be associated with the historical event that occurred under his rule. This explains the inclusion of war ships (galleys) in the bacino in the background. The oblong format of the canvas is due to its original prestigious intended location above the doge’s tribune in the Sala del Collegio (Sinding-Larsen 1974). When Alvise Mocenigo died in 1577, Tintoretto’s work was not yet finished. Alvise’s successor, Sebastian Venier, the commander of the Venetian forces, claimed the victory at Lepanto and therefore his own votive painting, executed by Veronese, took the place destined for Alvise’s canvas. The format of Tintoretto’s painting was thus modified to fit the right-hand lateral wall of the Collegio, and the painting was stripped of its connection with the naval battle.
Other changes occurred in the final version of the picture. The figure of Victory, barely sketched in the model, was later depicted while addressing Doge Alvise and Saint Mark with a palm branch. The presence of this element, as well as the prominent position given to the inscription "pax tibi marce" (peace to you Mark my Evangelist), at the bottom center of the composition, shifts the emphasis from the battle of Lepanto itself to the peace resulting from it, sanctioned by the treaty the doge signed with the Turks in 1573. The position of Saint Mark was also changed from the sketch to the final painting. As can be seen in x-radiography (Bayer 2005, fig. 31), the saint first stood in the foreground near the unfinished lion (his symbol) with his back to the viewer; he was subsequently placed behind the doge and finally moved to Mocenigo’s left side, seen in the sketch as the mannequin-like figure (Sinding-Larsen 1974, Sonnenberg 1974, and Falomir 2007).
Despite the finished appearance of some sections, this canvas was conceived by Tintoretto as a work in progress, probably the result of an ongoing dialogue with the patron. The composition’s overall sketchy character as well as the numerous pentimenti (revisions) revealed by x-radiography seem to support this hypothesis and offer an opportunity to study Tintoretto’s technique. It is a rare example, as the artist almost never made separate oil sketches, preferring to work directly on the canvas. Here Tintoretto used a finely woven canvas brushed over with dark brown oil paint as a ground, and with a second pale local priming over the area of the sky. The advantage of employing a dark priming, a technique which he was the first to apply systematically, was that it greatly accelerated the painting process. Tintoretto used the priming as a middle tone, rapidly applying both highlights and shadows in much the same way as Venetian artists did when they drew in white and ink on blue tinted paper. Workshop assistants probably began by painting the setting, including the architectural details, the floor pattern in the foreground, and the view into the piazzetta in the background. In the next part of the process Tintoretto sketched in the actors in the scene as greatly simplified nudes that were later clothed with draperies in color by his assistants before receiving the final touch of the master (for a discussion of the technique, see Sonnenburg 1974, Krischel 2000, Bayer 2005, and Falomir 2007).
[Eveline Baseggio/Andrea Bayer 2011]
Agostino and Giovan Donato Correggio, palazzo di San Cassiano, Venice (until ca. 1674; inv., 1646–74); Freiherr Karl Friedrich von Rumohr (gave to Nerly); Friedrich Nerly, Venice (until 1852; sold for 50 Napoleons to Ruskin); John Ruskin, Denmark Hill, near London, later Brantwood, Coniston, Cumbria (1852–d. 1900; on loan to Oxford University Galleries, about 1864–85); his cousin, Mrs. Arthur (Joan Agnew) Severn, Brantwood (1900–1910; sold to Douglas); [R. Langton Douglas, London, 1910; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1870, no. 140 (as "An Unfinished Sketch," by Tintoretto, lent by John Ruskin).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 14, 1896, no. 103 (as "The Doge in Prayer," lent by John Ruskin).
Milwaukee Auditorium. "Metropolitan Art Museum $1,000,000 Masterpiece Exhibition," March 7–14, 1953, unnumbered cat. (p. 6).
Austin, Tex. City Coliseum. "Texas Fine Arts Festival: Metropolitan Museum $1,000,000 Collection of Old Masters," April 18–26, 1953, unnum. checklist.
Art Gallery of Toronto. "Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, with a Group of Sixteenth-Century Venetian Drawings," February 12–March 13, 1960, no. 8.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 5.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 5.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Golden Century of Venetian Painting," October 30, 1979–January 27, 1980, no. 35.
Rotterdam. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. "Schilderkunst uit de eerste hand: Olieverfschetsen van Tintoretto tot Goya," December 10, 1983–January 30, 1984, no. 1.
Braunschweig. Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. "Malerei aus erster Hand: Ölskizzen von Tintoretto bis Goya," February 11–April 1, 1984, no. 1.
Venice. Palazzo Ducale. "Venezia e la difesa del Levante da Lepanto a Candia, 1570–1670," February 28–May 18, 1986, no. 14.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie. "Jacopo Tintoretto: Portraits," July 31–October 30, 1994, not in catalogue.
Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Tintoretto," January 30–May 27, 2007, no. 37.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 20).
Inventari de quadri, gioie e mobili della casa Correggio esistenti in Venezia e fuori. 1646–74, c. 10r [Archivio di Stato di Venezia; published in Borean 2000; Getty no. I-3643], as "Un dose ingenochioni con il san Giovanni Battista sant'Alvise et altri due santi da una, dall'altra san Marco con angeli modello un pocho mutato del quadro che è in collegio del Tintoretto vecchio d. 9".
John Ruskin. Letter to his father, John James Ruskin. February 13, 1852 [published in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p. 376 n. 3], writes that he has seen this picture, which he attributes to Tintoretto and describes as "a sketch for a picture in Ducal Palace—the Doge Grimani [sic] kneeling before Christ," in the collection of the painter Nerly, to whom it was given by its former owner Rumohr.
John Ruskin. Letter to his father, John James Ruskin. July 19, 1853 [published in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1904, pp. 376–77 n. 3], requests that 50 Napoleons be sent to Venice in payment for this picture, which he had written for the previous fall and has already received.
John Ruskin. Letter to his father, John James Ruskin. July 24, 1853 [published in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p. 377 n. 3], mentions its "wretched state".
John Ruskin. Letter to his father, John James Ruskin. August 14, 1853 [published in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p. 377 n. 3], writes that he is glad that his father likes the picture, and that he is planning to have it varnished.
John Ruskin. The Rudimentary Series. 1872 [reprinted in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1906, pp. 170–71].
John Ruskin. Venetian Index. Travellers' Edition. 1881 [reprinted in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p. 375], states that he bought this work, which he identifies as the original sketch for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice [see Notes], from signor Nerly, who had owned it for a long time; adds that it remained at Denmark Hill until his father's death , then went to Ruskin's school at Oxford.
John Ruskin. The Fireside: John Leech and John Tenniel. November 7 and 10, 1883 [published in Ref. Cook and Wedderburn 1908, p. 369].
[R. A. M. Stevenson]. "Fine Arts: The Royal Academy.—Winter Exhibition. (Fifth and Concluding Notice.)." Athenæum 107 (February 22, 1896), p. 255, identifies the four figures on the right as the patron saints of the Mocenigo family: John the Baptist, Augustine, John the Evangelist, and Gregory; interprets the shadow in the left foreground as cast by a statue of the Madonna and Child outside the picture; notes the presence of the lion of Saint Mark within the shadow.
J. B. Stoughton Holborn. Jacopo Robusti called Tintoretto. London, 1903, p. 107, notes that it is unfinished.
E[dward]. T[yas]. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, ed. The Works of John Ruskin. Vol. 11, London, 1904, pp. 375–77 n. 3, notes that Ruskin removed the picture from Oxford when he resigned his professorship [the 2nd time, in 1885].
E[dward]. T[yas]. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, ed. The Works of John Ruskin. Vol. 21, London, 1906, p. 170 n. 3.
E[dward]. T[yas]. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, ed. The Works of John Ruskin. Vol. 33, London, 1908, p. 369 n. 1.
Robert Langton Douglas. Letter to Edward Robinson. November 30, 1910, interprets the subject as commemorating the dedication of the city of Venice to Christ before the battle of Lepanto; discusses the provenance.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Ruskin's Tintoretto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (January 1911), pp. 6, 9, ill. p. 7, rejects its connection with the painting of Doge Mocenigo in the Palazzo Ducale, calling it a preparatory study for another work; reprints part of Ref. Stevenson 1896, disagreeing with Stevenson's explanation of the foreground shadow, which he believes is probably cast by the figures of Christ and the angels.
F. P. B. Osmaston. The Art and Genius of Tintoret. London, 1915, vol. 2, pp. 177, 204, attributes it to Tintoretto and calls it a study for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale, which he assigns largely to assistants; lists it as owner unknown, America, and erroneously gives the sale date as 1911.
Detlev von Hadeln. "Zeichnungen des Tintoretto." Jahrbuch der preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 42 (1921), pp. 186, 188, fig. 29, dates it about 1577 or slightly later, calling it a model to be submitted to the commissioners of the final work, which he attributes to Tintoretto and assistants.
Erich von der Bercken and August L. Mayer. Jacopo Tintoretto. Munich, 1923, vol. 1, pp. 106, 229; vol. 2, pl. 135, date it about 1577–84, call it a sketch for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale, and consider it superior to the painting.
Mary Pittaluga. Il Tintoretto. Bologna, 1925, p. 281, calls it a study for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale and dates it 1577–84.
Friedrich Stock. "Rumohrs Briefe an Bunsen über Erwerbungen für das Berliner Museum." Jahrbuch der preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 46, Beiheft (1925), p. 75 n. 176, fig. 20.
François Fosca. Tintoret. Paris, 1929, p. 144, lists it as a sketch.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 562, lists it as a sketch for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale; dates it not later than 1581.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 483.
[Erich von der] Bercken inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 33, Leipzig, 1939, p. 194.
Harry B. Wehle. "Tintoretto's Finding of Moses." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (December 1939), pp. 276–77.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 200–201, ill., states that it "may have been a preliminary sketch for" the painting in the Palazzo Ducale.
Erich von der Bercken. Die Gemälde des Jacopo Tintoretto. Munich, 1942, p. 118, no. 251, pls. 157–58 (overall and detail), dates it about 1577 or slightly later.
Giuseppe Fiocco. "Un capolavoro giovanile del Tintoretto nel Museo Civico di Padova." Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova 31–43 (1942–54), p. 58.
Luigi Coletti. Il Tintoretto. 2nd ed. Bergamo, 1944, p. 42, calls it a first idea for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale.
Hans Tietze. Tintoretto. London, 1948, pp. 57–58, 356–57, fig. 234, dates it between 1577 and 1584, "during which years Mocenigo was in office" [sic]; believes that since it differs in so many ways from the final painting in the Palazzo Ducale, it was probably made as a general sketch submitted to the commissioners of the work, rather than as a working model for the assistants who executed the painting.
Harry B. Wehle. "An Unfinished Tintoretto Explained." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (March 1949), pp. 173–80, ill. (overall, x-ray detail, infrared detail), identifies the dark area surrounding the lion as underpainting; discusses the similarities and differences between this picture and the finished painting in the Palazzo Ducale; notes that x-rays and infrared photographs reveal the presence of two figures, whom he identifies as Saint Mark and an angel, and which were painted over by a later artist; discusses the subject; notes that the likeness of Mocenigo was copied from Tintoretto's portrait of him now in the Accademia, Venice; identifies the four saints on the right as John the Baptist, Louis, Roch, and Nicholas.
Hans Tietze. "Bozzetti di Jacopo Tintoretto." Arte veneta 5 (1951), pp. 61–63, figs. 58, 59 (overall and x-ray detail).
Rodolfo Pallucchini. "Un capolavoro del Tintoretto: la Madonna del doge Alvise Mocenigo." Arte veneta 8 (1954), pp. 224, 226, fig. 238, dates it about 1576; notes that the figure of the doge is similar to that, in reverse, in a picture by Tintoretto in the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York (now National Gallery of Art, Washington), which he dates about 1573, and that the figures of both the doge and Saint Louis are similar to those in a tapestry altar frontal dated 1571 (Museo Marciano, Venice).
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 176; vol. 2, pl. 1318.
P[aul]. Wescher. "I ritratti del Doge Girolamo Priuli di Jacopo Tintoretto." Arte veneta 11 (1957), p. 207 n. 1, calls it a "modello".
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 169 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
Pierluigi De Vecchi inL'opera completa del Tintoretto. Milan, 1970, pp. 127–28, no. 261e, ill., calls it a sketch for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale, which he dates 1581–84.
Anna Pallucchini. "L'abbozzo del 'Concilio di Trento' di Jacopo Tintoretto." Arte veneta 24 (1970), p. 97.
James S. Dearden. "John Ruskin's Art Collection—A Centenary." Connoisseur 178 (September 1971), p. 31.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 200, 537, 538, 606.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 69–71, pls. 84, 85 (overall and detail), date it 1577 or slightly later; call the saints on the right John the Baptist, Louis of Toulouse, unknown, and possibly Gregory; state that the figure of Saint Mark [see Ref. Wehle 1949] was apparently painted over by Tintoretto himself, and that recent cleaning has revealed two figures in the sky painted over by a much later artist, possibly additional ideas for the figure of Saint Mark.
Paola Rossi. Jacopo Tintoretto. Vol. 1, I ritratti. Venice, [1974?], p. 125.
Hubert von Sonnenburg. "Beobachtungen zur Arbeitsweise Tintorettos." Maltechnik/Restauro 3 (1974), pp. 133–43, ill. in black and white (overall, details, x-ray, reconstructions) and in color (detail), believes that Tintoretto probably made it as an entry in a contest for the decoration of the Sala del Collegio in the Palazzo Ducale, that he made changes at that time to comply with requests from the commissioners, and that he then abandoned the picture; discusses the results of a recent detailed technical examination, noting some evidence of workshop participation.
Nicholas Penny. "John Ruskin and Tintoretto." Apollo 99 (April 1974), p. 272, fig. 10.
Staale Sinding-Larsen. Christ in the Council Hall: Studies in the Religious Iconography of the Venetian Republic. Rome, 1974, pp. 87–93, pls. XXI (overall), XXII (detail, infrared), XXIIIa (detail, x-ray), fig. 1 (diagram), dates it between 1571 and 1577, and possibly before December 1574; calls it a modello made for the authorities, not a workshop sketch; discusses the iconography, stating that it commemorates the victory in the battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571); identifies the figure appearing behind the doge as Victory.
Paola Rossi. I disegni di Jacopo Tintoretto. Florence, 1975, p. 38, fig. 166.
Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XIV: Agent for the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 109 (June 1979), p. 416, fig. 12.
Terisio Pignatti in collaboration with Kenneth Donahue inThe Golden Century of Venetian Painting. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1979, pp. 104–5, 166, no. 35, ill. (color), date it about 1577 and call it a preliminary study for the painting in the Palazzo Ducale.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 277–78, fig. 499 (color).
Staale Sinding-Larsen. "L'immagine della repubblica di Venezia." Architettura e utopia nella Venezia del Cinquecento. Ed. Lionello Puppi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice. Milan, 1980, p. 49 n. 15.
André Corboz. "L'immagine di Venezia nella cultura figurative del '500." Architettura e utopia nella Venezia del Cinquecento. Ed. Lionello Puppi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice. Milan, 1980, p. 66, dates it about 1577.
Rodolfo Pallucchini and Paola Rossi. Tintoretto. Vol. 2, 2 vols., Le opere sacre e profane. Venice, 1982, vol. 1, pp. 95, 198, 222, no. 324; vol. 2, fig. 419, date it 1571–74.
Wolfgang Wolters. Der Bilderschmuck des Dogenpalastes. Wiesbaden, 1983, pp. 121–22, figs. 100 (overall), 101 (x-ray detail), dates it 1570–77.
J[eroen]. Giltay. Schilderkunst uit de eerste hand: Olieverfschetsen van Tintoretto tot Goya. Exh. cat., Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 1984, pp. 34, 36–37, no. 1, ill. p. 35 and colorpl. II, dates it about 1571–77.
Terisio Pignatti and Francesco Valcanover. Tintoretto. Milan, 1985, p. 48, fig. 63.
Stefania Mason Rinaldi inVenezia e la difesa del Levante da Lepanto a Candia, 1570–1670. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Venice, 1986, pp. 14, 18 n. 7, pp. 28–29, no. 14, ill., dates it 1571–74.
Paola Rossi and Giovanna Nepi Sciré inJacopo Tintoretto: ritratti. Exh. cat., Gallerie dell' Accademia, Venice. Milan, 1994, pp. 32, 44, 46, ill. p. 47 [German ed., "Jacopo Tintoretto: Portraits," pp. 32, 45, 47, ill.].
Tomas Nichols inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 31, New York, 1996, p. 15, dates it about 1571–74; calls it a preparatory study, noting that it differs too greatly from the final painting to be considered a working model.
Roland Krischel. Jacopo Tintoretto, 1519–1594. Cologne, 2000, pp. 88, 91, figs. 74, 75, 78 (color, overall and details).
Linda Borean. La quadreria di Agostino e Giovan Donato Correggio nel collezionismo veneziano del Seicento. Udine, 2000, pp. 87–88 n. 67, p. 175, identifies it with a work included in the Correggio inventory of 1646–74 [see Ref.].
Andrea Kirsh and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. New Haven, 2000, p. 265.
Anne Corneloup. "Le corps de saint Marc et celui de Rangone: ou le principe d''imitatio' selon Tintoret." Studiolo 2 (2003), p. 127, fig. 27.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Venice and the Veneto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Summer 2005), pp. 32–34, figs. 29 (color), 30 (before restoration), 31 (x-radiograph).
Tracy E. Cooper. Palladio's Venice: Architecture and Society in a Renaissance Republic. New Haven, 2005, pp. 193, 332 n. 40, fig. 202 (color).
Miguel Falomir et al. inTintoretto. Ed. Miguel Falomir. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2007, pp. 154, 324, 328–29, 333, 411–12, no. 37, ill. pp. 286 and 325 (color, overall and detail), figs. 167 (x-radiograph), 168–69 (color details).
Robert Wald in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, p. 77, fig. 32 (color detail).
Nico Van Hout. The Unfinished Painting. [Antwerp], 2012, pp. 4, 98–101, ill. (color).
Benjamin Paul. "'Convertire in se medesimo questo flagello': autocritica del Doge Alvise Mocenigo nel bozzetto di Tintoretto per il dipinto votivo a Palazzo Ducale." Celebrazione e autocritica: la Serenissima e la ricerca dell'identità veneziana nel tardo Cinquecento. Ed. Benjamin Paul. Rome, 2014, pp. 123–56, figs. 27, 32 (x-radiograph).
Andrea Bayer inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 321, colorpl. 20.
Michael Gallagher inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, pp. 44, 265 n. 4, fig. 3 (before treatment).