One of the leading Venetian artists of the sixteenth century, Jacopo Tintoretto was celebrated for the monumental narrative scenes he painted in numerous churches and confraternities throughout the city. These paintings are densely populated with dynamic, twisting, and sharply foreshortened figures. As a preparatory step in the creation of these complex figural poses, Tintoretto produced numerous studies on paper. The reclining pose of this figure was probably inspired by Michelangelo’s monumental sculptures in the Medici Chapel in Florence, small-scale copies of which Tintoretto kept as models in his studio, according to his seventeenth-century biographer. With gridlines to aid in the transfer of the design to canvas, this study may have been preparatory for the similarly posed figure of Saint Peter that appears in a painting of the Agony in the Garden (Private Collection).
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Medium:Black chalk on blue paper; squared in black chalk.
Dimensions:6 5/8 x 12 5/8 in. (16.9 x 32 cm)
Credit Line:Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
One of the leading Venetian artists of the sixteenth century, Jacopo Tintoretto was celebrated for the monumental narrative scenes he painted in numerous churches and confraternities throughout the city. Infused with dramatic energy, these paintings are densely populated with dynamic, twisting, and sharply foreshortened figures. As a preparatory step in the creation of these complex figural poses, Tintoretto produced numerous studies on paper. His large corpus of drawings illuminates a central and unifying principle of his artistic practice: an intense focus upon the human form -- its expressive capacity, energy, range of motion, and position in space. The vast majority of his drawings demonstrate the primacy of single figure studies, drawn from live models or after sculpture, usually produced rapidly in chalk on blue paper.
Jacopo’s drawings, as well as those of earlier and contemporary Venetian draftsmen, dispel the long-standing notion that Venetian artists did not rely on this medium as a preparatory step in the creation of painting. Beginning in the sixteenth century, Tuscan artists and writers condemned Venetian painters for their careless, unfinished manner and for neglecting a fundamental artistic principal: disegno, a term encompassing both the act of drawing and the concept of design. Venetian artists were disparaged for prioritizing colore, referring to pigment, brushwork, and the illusionistic effect of painting. In his Lives of the Artists of 1568, Giorgio Vasari argued that Tintoretto worked "haphazardly, without disegno, as if to prove that art is but a jest."
The central role that drawing played in the Tintoretto workshop was described by Carlo Ridolfi in his 1642 biography of Jacopo, in which he states that the artist "set himself to draw from live models, setting them in different poses and giving them grace in their movements, while yet exploring endless foreshortenings." Tintoretto’s numerous figure studies closely reflect Ridolfi’s words, as they are almost exclusively dedicated to capturing the human form in a wide variety of poses projected in space. In addition to using human models, Ridolfi describes the artist’s use of small clay or wax figures, which he…
"…dressed in scraps of cloth, attentively studying the folds on the outlines of the limbs. He also placed some of the figures in little houses and in perspective scenes made of wood and cardboard, and by means of little lamps, he contrived for the windows he introduced therein lights and shadows. He also hung some models by threads to the roof beams to study the appearance they made when seen from below, and to get the foreshortening of figures."
Tintoretto also made studies of sculptural models, such as antique busts, and small-scale copies of Michelangelo’s sculptures. The pose of the figure in the present drawing was probably inspired by Michelangelo’s monumental sculptures in the Medici Chapel in Florence. Tintoretto’s undulating, wiry, and emphatic contours evoke the expressive and dramatic power of the human form. With gridlines to aid in the transfer of the design to canvas, the sheet may have been preparatory for the figure of Saint Peter in a painting of the Agony in the Garden (Private Collection).
On the reverse of the sheet is a study of a nude male figure, bent forward at the torso with his (truncated) arms outstretched. Tintoretto rendered the musculature with quick, rounded schematic strokes. This study may have been preparatory for the figure of the Bad Thief on the Cross (who traditionally appears alongside the crucified Christ), on the right side of Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in the Church of San Cassiano in Venice, painted in 1568.
Alison Manges Nogueira 2019
Inscription: Annotated in brown ink at the lower right in an eighteenth-century hand: G. Tintoretto.
Joshua Reynolds, London (Lugt 2364); Ludwig Burchard.
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.
The Robert Lehman Collection is one of the most distinguished privately assembled art collections in the United States. Robert Lehman's bequest to The Met is a remarkable example of twentieth-century American collecting.