Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christ at the Sea of Galilee

Title: Christ at the Sea of Galilee
Artist: Jacopo Tintoretto
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 117 x 169 cm
Date: 1575-80
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection he appeared to many of his disciples. The third instance of such an appearance is recorded in John 21. While some of his disciples were fishing one morning they spotted a man along the shore. He called to them and provided fishing advice of miraculous proportions. “Therefore the disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him, and plunged into the sea.” (John 21:7)

The Venetian master Tintoretto marshaled the unstable forces of nature to heighten the drama of this scene from John's Gospel; the wind that fills the sail and bends the mast also agitates the sea and sky, and the rocky waves meet the low clouds that blow onto the land. Christ's outstretched arm draws Simon Peter like a magnet, the charge between them creating a dynamic link between the center of the picture and the left foreground. Tintoretto has broken all forms into multiple planes, splintering the light, and frosting the edges with a brush loaded with dry, lead-white oil paint. This use of a thick, white impasto to accent the highlights as in the grassy shore at Christ's feet is a hallmark of Tintoretto's bravura style.

Tintoretto (real name Jacopo Comin; September 29, 1518 – May 31, 1594) was one of the greatest painters of the Venetian school and probably the last great painter of the Italian Renaissance. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. Indeed, fellow Venetian master Sebastiano del Piombo remarked that Tintoretto could paint in two days as much as himself in two years.

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