Jacopo Tintoretto, Venus and Vulcan

Artist | Jacopo Tintoretto (ca. 1518-1594)  
TitleVenus and Vulcan 
Date | ca. 1545  
Medium | Black chalk, pen and brown ink with brown and grey wash, heightened with white 
Dimensions | 201 x 272 mm 
Institution | Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (link to online catalogue)
Credit line | bpk / Kupferstichkabinett, SMB / Jörg P. Anders
Theme | Composing Space and Creating Action
Museum number | KdZ 4193 

With about one hundred and thirty extant sheets, Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto (1518/19–1594), likely made a drawing in charcoal or chalk for every figure in his paintings, meaning these sheets only account for a fraction of his oeuvre. A prolific painter, Tintoretto remained closely tied with his geographical origins and the artistic opportunity available in Venice – he is only recorded away from Venice on a single occasion. It was Tintoretto’s characteristic and fast-paced prestezza that resulted in both thousands of drawings during his lifetime and controversy among his contemporaries as his imprecise style as a draftsman was interpreted by some as overhasty and careless. Tintoretto explored anatomy and dynamism in his paintings and studied the male nude, often in movement, in his drawings done mostly on blue paper. The drawing here is a compositional preparation for the painting Vulcan Surprises Venus and Mars in the Alte Pinakothek, a slightly humorous depiction of a story of adultery from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It is important to note that this is one of Tintoretto’s few surviving compositional studies. The emphasis on the body’s musculature is here combined with vibrant, approximate lines. Tintoretto also takes advantage of the blue paper to heighten the subtle chiaroscuro that enhances feelings of space and light moving with the figures.