PRINT September 2011


Jacopo Tintoretto, Last Supper, 1591–94, oil on canvas, 12' × 18' 8".

NO DOUBT, THE THREE TINTORETTOS that curator Bice Curiger and her team selected for the main room of the Central Pavilion in Venice look splendid—not least because these late-sixteenth-century paintings were specifically restored for the Biennale. But to make Jacopo Tintoretto the point of reference in an exhibition titled “ILLUMInations” is misleading. Light always plays a pivotal role in the work of the Venetian painter, yet it hardly possesses the clarifying power to which the title of the 2011 Biennale alludes. Tintoretto rejected humanism’s empowering of the subject. He led the way to Baroque mysticism, not to the Enlightenment.

In particular the famous Last Supper, 1591–94, brought to the Giardini from San Giorgio Maggiore, illustrates Tintoretto’s use of light as sign and symbol. Tintoretto here transforms Leonardo’s canonical composition of Christ’s good-bye party.

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