(b. 1518, Venezia, d. 1594, Venezia)

The Miracle of St Mark Freeing the Slave

Oil on canvas, 415 x 541 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

The painting is the first of a series of works, painted in 1548 for the Scuola Grande di San Marco while Marco Episcopi, his future father-in-law was Grand Guardian of the School.

The subject of the huge canvas is the miraculous appearence of St Mark to rescue one of his devotees, a servant of a knight of Provence, who had been condemned to having his legs broken and his eyes put out for worshipping the relics of the saint against his master's will. The scenes takes place on a kind of proscenium which seems to force the action out of the painting towards the spectator who is thus involved in the amazement of the crowd standing in a semi-circle around the protagonists: the fore-shortened figure of the slave lying on the ground, the dumbfounded executioner holding aloft the broken implements of torture, the knight of Provence starting up from his seat out of the shadow into the light, while the figure of St Mark swoops down from above.

In keeping with the drama of the action is the tight construction of the painting, the dramatic fore-shortening of the forms and sudden strong contrast of light and shade.