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

The Presentation of the Virgin

Oil on canvas, 429 x 480 cm
Madonna dell'Orto, Venice

This painting, consisting of two vertical halves now stitched together in the middle, once adorned the outsides of two organ wings. The monumental stairway indicates the musical connection; its 15 steps or "grades" refer to the 15 graduals, the psalms sung by pilgrims in annual temple processions. The singers' gallery above the organ was also painted by Tintoretto. The dark carving of the breastwork and the frames of the wings were partly gilded, like the stairway in the painting; Tintoretto picked out its undulating ornamentation in gold leaf. This "Byzantine" stylistic element is particularly effective in the shadowy area on the left, where it produces a sense of mystic illumination. The richly decorated steps on Mary's way into the temple are reminiscent of the Scala dei Giganti in the interior courtyard of the Ducal Palace, the lower section of which, like the stairway up to the temple, has 15 steps. Like the high priest in Tintoretto's picture, the Doge used to receive important guests on this staircase.