The Venetian painter Jacopo Robusti, known as Il Tintoretto—the little dyer, after his father’s profession—is said to have aspired, in his work, to combine “il disegno di Michelangelo e il colorito di Tiziano”: he’s even supposed to have written the phrase on the walls of his studio. The Tintoretto scholar Frederick Ilchman interprets this as “the drawing of Michelangelo and the paint handling of Titian,” while others translate colorito as “coloring.” Whichever meaning we choose, there’s no doubt that the combination resulted in theatrical, seductively hued paintings filled with muscular bodies that move and gesture to diagram and animate the space they occupy—a distinctive approach that defines Tintoretto. Just how distinctive can be judged from a series of spectacular exhibitions covering just about every aspect of the...


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