(b. 1518, Venezia, d. 1594, Venezia)
The Flight into Egypt1582-87
Oil on canvas, 422 x 580 cm
Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice
As so often with Tintoretto, this painting is matched with the utmost exactitude to its situation on the ground floor Sala Inferiore of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco: in the arching branch on the left, the curve of the palm fronds on the right, and the roughly circular view of the sky at the centre, the painter echoes the shape of the windows flanking the picture with astonishing precision. Like the needy people who waited for charitable donations on the bench below the painting, the Holy Family seems to be fleeing hopefully out of the picture and into the Sala Inferiore of the Confraternity of St Roch itself.
In the wooded hollow, after furtively avoiding every inhabited place, Mary and Joseph together with the Holy Child, prepare to take a rest. On the left, in the foreground, in the web of dull greens, browns and whites of the landscape, the group of fugitives and their humble packs are depicted with concise reality in every element of form and colour. On the right the landscape scene, built up with extraordinary, quick brush-strokes and enlarged into fathomless depths, opens out.
Tintoretto's sensitivity to simple and popular forms of religious practice, with subdued yet mystical overtones, here produce an intensely poetic effect. The trees, water, living creatures, and clouds all seem caressed by a glimmering light that gives them an unearthly intensity.