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

The Stealing of the Dead Body of St Mark

Oil on canvas, 398 x 315 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

In 1562 Tintoretto was commissioned by the Guardian Grande, Tommaso Rangone to complete the decoration of the School of St Mark. This work from the Sala Capitolare relates the episode in which the Christians of Alexandria, taking advantage of a sudden hurricane, take possession of the Michelangelesque body of the saint which was about to be burned by the pagans. The group in the foreground (where Rangone himself is depicted bearing the head of the saint) stands out sculpturally from the vertiginous depth of the background created by the use of light and by the obsessive architectural sequence of arcades and mullioned windows which terminate in the phosphorescence of the construction outlined against a reddish sky heavy with clouds. Light assumes an elemental role in this phantasmagoric scene. A curiously prominent role is played by the dromedary that has escaped from his owner.

Tintoretto inserted himself into the composition - at right, the bearded man behind the camel.