Domenico was the son and pupil of the renowned Venetian master, Jacopo Tintoretto. While the influence of Jacopo’s rhythmical line is evident in the drawings of his son, Domenico developed an individual style of draftsmanship characterized by softer and more naturalistic modeling, as illustrated in this study of a female nude, one in a series depicting heavily foreshortened figures in various reclining poses, including several others in the Lehman Collection. These studies may have served as reference points for the voluptuous, recumbent figures of Venus and Danae that abound in paintings by the Tintoretto workshop Domenico’s series of female nudes epitomize the primacy of drawing after live models in the Tintoretto workshop.
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The eldest son and pupil of the renowned Venetian master Jacopo Tintoretto, Domenico played a significant role in the thriving family workshop as his father’s primary collaborator, and following Jacopo’s death in 1594, as his successor. Domenico’s artistic formation was deeply indebted to his father and at times, their work is difficult to differentiate, raising questions of authorship. However, Domenico became a distinguished artist in his own right, and his individual style finds expression in many of his drawings, most notably in his studies of female nudes, characterized by naturalistic modeling and soft, fluid lines, compared to Jacopo’s emphatic, abbreviated, and wiry contours.
The large corpus of drawings by Jacopo and Domenico illuminate a central and unifying principle of their artistic practice: an intense focus upon the human form -- its expressive capacity, energy, range of motion, and position in space. The vast majority of extant drawings by both artists demonstrate the primacy of single figure studies, drawn from live models or after sculpture, usually produced rapidly in chalk on blue paper. These studies relate to the dynamic, twisting, dramatically foreshortened figures that populate the monumental narratives painted by the Tintoretto throughout Venice.
Drawing by Jacopo and Domenico, 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." Jacopo’s and Domenico’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.
Drawing the human form from live models in the studio was central to the artistic practice in the Tintoretto workshop. Domenico’s will of 1630 records hundreds of studies drawn after male and female models, which may well include the series of eight nude studies in the Robert Lehman Collection (1975.1.33, 1975.1.34, 1975.1.35, 1975.1.36, 1975.1.37, 1975.1.38, 1975.1.39, 1975.1.40), as well as sheets in other collections (the Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints (41.187.2); the Albertina, Vienna; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; and the Frits Lugt Collection, Fondation Custodia, Institut Neérlandais, Paris). Portraying female models in various reclining and seated poses, these studies are highly unusual for the period in their stark realism and modern aesthetic.
Several of these recumbent female figures are diagonally and frontally posed to sensually display the body, evoking voluptuous images of Venus (1975.1.533; 1975.1.537), for which there was a strong tradition in Venice painting. The closest analogies to these studies are found in Domenico’s chiaroscuro compositional oil sketches from a sketchbook in the British Museum, London (1907,0717.75; 1907,0717.20; 1907,0717.76; 1907,0717.77), which portray similarly posed reclining female figures in landscapes or interior settings. Produced with a brush on paper, these oil sketches blur the boundaries between drawing and painting and may relate to lost paintings depicting Venus or other mythological figures.
Some of Domenico’s other female nude studies (1975.1.534; 1975.1.536), however, are much less sensual and graceful, portraying the model in supine and sharply foreshortened positions. The artist used similarly posed figures in depicting corpses, for example in a chiaroscuro sketch depicting Venice Supplicating the Virgin Mary to Intercede with Christ for the Cessation of the Plague (Princeton University Art Museum).
The varying poses and sensibilities of Domenico’s nude studies suggest that they served a broad range of functions in the creation of figure types, and their close association with several of the artist’s compositional oil sketches on paper may indicate that they were studies for lost paintings.
Alison Manges Nogueira 2019
Inscription: Annotated in pen and brown ink at the lower left in an eighteenth-century hand: Tint (the "T" at the left partly cut away).
Luigi Grassi, Florence (Lugt Suppl. 1171b); Frits Lugt, Paris; Grassi sale 1924, lot 134. Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1924.
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