Tintoretto is one of the great heirs of the Venetian pictorial school during the second half of the 16th century. In that period he became one of the greatest representatives of mannerist art, merging in the same creator the characteristics of the color of Venice, always splendid, and the way of drawing “alla maniera” by Michelangelo, because during his youth, Tintoretto made a trip to Rome to meet the great master of the Sistine Chapel, and without a doubt his style has many influences with that painter.
Saint Roch in the Hospital of Tintoretto
In fact, as we can see in this work, or in many others by Tintoretto, such as his famous El Paraíso, we see that he dedicated himself to painting figures with a fairly elongated canon, and above all with foreshortenings that They serve to experience the most varied postures of the human body, while generating strong contrasts between light and shadow, or playing with the scenic effects in terms of perspective.
All this is especially evident in this huge canvas (307 x 637 cm.) painted for the church of San Roque in Venice. A work from 1549, in which we see Saint Roque himself in action, a saint who was most revered at the time since he was related to the healing of plague patients. A disease that had killed thousands of people in Europe, and alsomany artists. Without going any further, in Venice, Giorgione died during one of those plagues.
On this occasion Tintoretto shows us the saint in his pilgrim attire and ready to miraculously heal a sick person. By the way, the levels of realism when it comes to representing the afflicted are incredible. There is no doubt that the artist carefully studied everything related to this terrible disease, either through medical treatises of the time or by observing those affected in person. The fact is that he manages to represent with great truthfulness all the drama of his postures and gestures of pain.
We see all those sick people distributed around the room and arranged diagonally. It is a composition that somehow can remind one of his great works: the Lavatorio de pies, but now it is much more overloaded with characters, and above all darker, more dramatic, given the subject it deals with and especially its way of do it, for that magnificent repertoire of sick bodies, where the effects left by the bubonic plague in those years are perfectly seen. And it is that another of the added values of the art of Tintoretto, is that when he painted religious or mythological scenes, it was usual for him to include current elements, so that thanks to his paintings one can make a good chronicle of what life was like in Venice in the mid and late 16th century.