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The Last Supper by Tintoretto

The Last Supper (oil painting on canvas, 1592–1594) by Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti), is a brilliant Mannerist painting housed in the presbytery of the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy. San Giorgio contains many other paintings by Tintoretto such as the companion piece of The Last Supper, The Jews in the desert; the dignified The Entombment of Christ in the mortuary (Cappella dei Morti) of the Benedictine Monks; and some works in which he was assisted by his son Domenico, including altarpieces.

Other Last Supper paintings by Tintoretto can be found in the Chiesa di San Marcuola (1547) and the Chiesa di San Felice (1559). They are more similar in treatment to the famous Leonardo da Vinci rendering (1498) in as much as showing Jesus as the central figure of the painting, facing the viewer. This is described as a 'frontal treatment' of the subject. Though this became the dominant depiction it was not always so; for example Giotto’s Paduan Last Supper (c. 1305) shows Jesus on the left edge of the canvas. Another interesting pre-Da Vinci example is that of Fra Angelico for the San Marco Monastery, Florence (1442). In this painting Jesus almost has his back to the viewer while he administers communion to the disciples and others present. After the Da Vinci painting it seems that the placement of Jesus at the centre became more established. An interesting and animated example is the painting by Raphael and his workshop of pupils found in the Vatican (1518-19).

This standardisation is in stark contrast with Tintoretto’s work shown here. The bold departure from the conventional treatment in the 1592–1594 work shows both the influence of Mannerism and the Counter-Reformation on Tintoretto's later expression. It is seen as a foretelling of the Italian Baroque.


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