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

The Crucifixion of Christ

Oil on canvas, 341 x 371 cm
San Cassiano, Venice

Tintoretto used a print by Coornhert made from a design by Maerten van Heemskerck, as the model for his own depiction of the crucified Christ. He adopted the attitude of the body of Heemskerck's Christ almost unchanged, and also the ends of the loincloth hanging down between the legs. He did change the position of the head: while Heemskerck shows the dead Christ's head sunk on his breast, in Tintoretto the Redeemer is shown engaged in silent dialogue with his mother.

The spears of the soldiers watching the spectacle on the other side of the hill of Golgotha give the place a spiky and inhospitable appearance. They suggest the mythical warriors that sprang from the seed of the dragon's teeth sown by Cadmus, only to turn and slaughter each other at once. Tintoretto may have been deliberately conjuring up Counter-Reformation ideas of the disunity of the enemies of Christ, since the garment of Christ, the symbol of church unity, is placed antithetically in front of the Roman army banner.