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

St Roch in the Hospital (detail)

Oil on canvas
San Rocco, Venice

The plague was a constant danger in the harbour city of Venice, and the state sought to counter it by taking careful precautionary measures, for instance the building of the Lazzaretto Nuovo as a quarantine hospital around 1470. Tintoretto's painting could equally well show the plague hospital of the Lazzaretto Vecchio, also built on an island in the lagoon as early as 1423. The young women shown here entering from the sides of the picture to wash the sick, bind up their sores, and feed them, are probably unemployed prostitutes, who were pressed into service in the Lazzaretto Vecchio in times of plague.