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

The Last Judgment

Oil on canvas, 1450 x 590 cm
Madonna dell'Orto, Venice

In the years when Veronese was producing his monumental banqueting scenes, Tintoretto also painted some large scale works: the Adoration of the Golden Calf and the Last Judgment in the presbytery of Madonna dell'Orto are both almost fifteen meters high. The difference between the painters is evident. Veronese's works are brilliantly variegated, but Tintoretto deliberately dispenses with harmony and composure. Instead he favours a glaring, sultry light, in which the tense postures of the figures and the strained perspective are used for expressive effect.

Tintoretto's Last Judgment is a systematic summary of Titian's and Michelangelo's great models in a judgment that resembles a flood. The height of the painting and a skilful manipulation of the point of view enable the artist to create the illusion that the slanting cosmic deluge is pouring over to the viewer.

Iconographically, this is probably Tintoretto's most complex painting, and it has still not been fully interpreted. The artist shows the Last Judgment as a raging elemental event of cosmic dimensions. If, as is often claimed, Tintoretto ever strove to achieve a synthesis of Titian and Michelangelo, then it was here, where he combines the composition of the Gloria of 1553 for Charles V with the monumentality of the wall painting of the Sistine Chapel. As in late medieval northern panel painting, Christ is shown as judge of the world, with the lily of mercy and the sword of righteousness, while the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist intercede for resurrected mankind. A particularly unusual feature is the depiction of The Last Judgment as a catastrophe involving flooding.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.