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

Moses Drawing Water from the Rock

Oil on canvas, 550 x 520 cm
Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice

This painting is on the ceiling of the Sala Superiore.

After finishing the central canvas on the ceiling of the Upper Hall Tintoretto immediately began to carry out the two large side paintings at the beginning of 1577. In this painting, which clearly alludes to the task of the Brothers of the Scuola of quenching the thirst of the poor, Moses, by his clothes and pose, recalls the figure of Christ and the water gushing from the rock symbolizes the blood that flows from the side of the Son of God. At the centre of the canvas, Moses strikes a rock and powerful streams of water erupt from it, filling plates, bowls, and jars held out eagerly by the parched Israelites.

God the Father, borne aloft on a supernatural crystal globe, comes in haste to save his thirsty people. The water struck by Moses from the rock for the Israelites seems to be spurting toward the viewer past the leaves of a fig tree. In the background is yet another threat: the Amalekites are attacking the camp of the children of Israel. The Lord observes from above.

To care for the health and nourishment of the poor, the common denominator between the three great ceiling paintings, was among the principal social obligations of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.