Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Rome has the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's masterpieces. Florence has the Uffizi Gallery, where the finest works of Florentine art reside. And Venice has the Scuola Grande di Rocco, which houses over 60 paintings by the city's favorite native son, Jacopo Tintoretto. Considered by many to be Venice's greatest painter, Tintoretto spent the Renaissance seeking to combine the color of Titian with the drawing skill of Michelangelo, and thereby became the city most revered artisan.

The paintings that lie within the Scuola Grande di San Rocco were his most acclaimed works, and the entire cycle took him 23 years to complete. And while the Scuola has a number of paintings from such immortals as Titian and Giorgione, it is the many paintings of Jacopo Tintoretto that continue to bring in awestruck visitors to this day. In 1564, the Scuola held a competition - the winner would get to decorate the walls and ceilings. Painter after painter came, bringing sketches and plans and dreams to the school administrators. Only Tintoretto showed up with a completely finished work, "St. Rocco in Glory". It still hangs at the center of the ceiling.

The ceilings are low and there is a blue gloom that sits before the walls of the first floor of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, enveloping the paintings. Colors are hard to make out, and the lighting is dim and uninspiring. But a short ascent up the decorated staircase brings forth the blossoming heart of the Scuola. Massive paintings hang from the rafters - the color and intensity of Tintoretto's finest work on full display. Some of the works seem unfinished. Legs do not meet the ground, simply vanish into thin air. But it is the motion, the passion and the remarkable distortions of perspective and light that make these paintings worth viewing.

One of his most enduring paintings is his unconventional take on the Last Supper. Where most renditions of this meal focus on the interactions between the apostles and Jesus or Judas" betrayal, Tintoretto"s painting is about the gift of the Eucharist, the symbol of divine sacrifice. Though his life produced many notable works, the legacy of Jacopo Tintoretto will be forever intertwined with the halls of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

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