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Portrait of a Gentleman

circa 1585-1590
16th century
61.5 cm x 49.8 cm (24 3/16 in. x 19 5/8 in.)

Domenico Tintoretto (Venice, Italy, 1560 - 1635, Venice, Italy) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Accession Number: 2017.1402

The dynamic composition, mobile light, and inherent expressiveness of the Venetian tradition were carried to their extreme in the painting of Jacopo Tintoretto. However arbitrary his compositions and complicated his devices, their visual energy and the viewer’s visceral sensation return to inform the ostensible subject. In this sense his work represents both the height of a distinctively Venetian Mannerism and a critical source of the Baroque, Rubens’s work in particular. So vital and economical, this style lent itself to portraiture. At their best, Tintoretto’s portraits combine audacious painterliness and powerful characterization. Often, due to the intervention of assistants, they also appear formulaic and unfelt.

This portrait, by Jacopo’s eldest son, is an extraordinary example. The drawing is unusually firm, the surface compact, and the light varied, from the glistening corner of the sitter’s eye to the faint glow about his head. This description of a very specific appearance is matched by the psychology, not just generically present but momentary and penetrating. During the 1580s Agostino and Annibale Carracci traveled frequently to Venice and assimilated the school’s most advanced developments: color and classicizing form from Paolo Veronese, and of course dynamic and light from Jacopo Tintoretto. This painting involves the opposite phenomenon: Domenico Tintoretto’s response to the revolutionary experiments of the Carracci. It joins their work on the threshold of the Baroque.

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