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

St Roch in Prison Visited by an Angel

Oil on canvas, 300 x 670 cm
San Rocco, Venice

The death in prison of St Roch serves as the pretext for a pitilessly realistic depiction of a prison cell. As if in an image of hell, various levels of punishment can be made out. While the seated man in the left foreground is closely chained to the damp wall, the prisoner standing next to him can exchange a few words with the guard at the round hatch. A thief with his hand cut off as punishment is visible through the grating in the floor. A companion lowers food into this desolate dungeon. To the amazement of the prisoners, an angel of comfort comes flying in, unimpeded by the iron grating on the right of the cell.

The flying angel was obviously painted from the same three-dimensional model as St Mark in The Miracle of the Slave of some 20 years earlier. Since even the hem of the garment fluttering up above the left calf is exactly the same in both paintings, we may assume that the wax or clay figure which served Tintoretto as model was clad in fabric stiffened with glue or plaster. The fragile model probably hung for decades from a beam in the roof of Tintoretto's dark, private laboratory, and was thus preserved from damage.