Tintoretto: Legends of St. Mark, Scuola Grande di San Marco

Tintoretto: Legends of St. Mark, Scuola Grande di San Marco


[MUSIC PLAYING] The Scuola Grande di San Marco was one of the most prestigious Venetian confraternities of the 16th century. Confraternities were voluntary associations of laymen who promoted the veneration of Christian saints and provided assistance to the sick and needy. The Scuola of San Marco was devoted to Mark the Evangelist, the city’s patron saint. Beginning in 1548, Jacopo Tintoretto painted four works for the chapter hall recounting the legends of Saint Mark. His son Domenico would add several more. The chapter hall where members of the confraternity held meetings and masses looks very different today than it did when the cycle of paintings was finished. In 1548, Tintoretto completed his first painting for the hall, The Miracle of the Slave. It was also his breakthrough masterpiece. The work recounts a posthumous intervention by the saint’s spirit. A pagan master punishes his Christian slave for venerating Mark’s relics in Venice. Saint Mark flies into the scene, destroying the instruments of torture including the shattered hammer the torturer shows to the slave’s master. Amazed by the miracle, he converted to Christianity. 14 years later, Jacopo returned to complete three more paintings. An enigmatic scene may show Mark overseeing care of the dying and the blind and performing exorcism. A body is pulled from a tomb at upper right, which may represent the finding of the saint’s body by Christians in Alexandria in the 9th century. In The Removal of the Body of Saint Mark in Alexandria, the evangelist’s followers furtively carry the saint’s body away from his persecutors. To the right, the saint’s spirit miraculously rescues a Saracen who had invoked Mark’s protection from drowning in a ferocious storm. [MUSIC PLAYING] Jacopo’s son Domenico painted scenes related to Mark’s destiny to be buried in Venice– the transport of Mark’s shrouded body to Venice, and the saint’s dream that he would come to rest there. According to a Venetian legend, during his lifetime Mark visited the Venetian lagoon and fell asleep. An angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Peace be with you, Mark my evangelist. Here your body will find its final rest.” The altarpiece, Christ in Glory with Saint Mark, St. Peter, and St. Paul, was later commissioned from Jacopo Palma il Giovane. The Venice cityscape fills the canvas beneath the saints, offering a view of the city as it looked in 1614. To the right of the altarpiece, Domenico painted Saint Mark Blessing the Origins of Venice. He stands in a boat consecrating the site where Venice will be founded and his body will come to rest. [MUSIC PLAYING] In Domenico’s Arrival of the Body of Saint Mark, the doge of Venice awaits as Mark’s glowing casket is borne into the city by members of the confraternity in white hooded robes. St. Mark’s remains were buried in the Basilica of San Marco in the 9th century. But 200 years later, when the basilica was rebuilt after a fire, the location of Mark’s tomb had been forgotten. It was miraculously rediscovered when Mark’s arm emerged from a pillar exhibiting a jeweled ring on one finger. The Scuola’s cycle of paintings was broken up after the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. Napoleon’s troops occupied Venice and shipped The Miracle of the Slave to Paris. It returned to Venice in 1815 when it entered the Gallerie dell’Accademia. The Finding of the Body of Saint Mark went to the Brera Gallery in Milan, where it remains. In 1866 Venice, then under Austrian control, lost The Removal of the Body of Saint Mark and The Rescue of a Saracen to Vienna. But both now hang in the Accademia in Venice, along with Domenico’s Dream of Saint Mark. Domenico’s other paintings were returned to the Scuola Grande di San Marco.

2 Replies to “Tintoretto: Legends of St. Mark, Scuola Grande di San Marco”

  1. The national galleries talks are always so excellent and enthusiastic thank you, all at the gallery I listen all the time. Thanks again eleanor

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