Often compared to the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in Rome, the paintings in San Rocco by the Venetian master Tintoretto easily demonstrate why. While none can surpass Michelangelo, this native artist was indeed one of the most outstanding of the Renaissance. And the over 50 paintings housed here make plain why the comparison is warranted.
But first, the building.
Next door to the San Rocco Church, the Scuola Grande is a highlight of the Venetian Renaissance. The best view of the facade is gained from two vantage points. Take in the whole from far away in order to enjoy the columns and the overall look. Then move in closer.
The close up view allows seeing the elaborate carvings near the base of those columns and the fine gilding that covers the pedestals. From this vantage point one can see the delicate stone work that forms the tops of the columns set in the windows. The floral pattern betrays the Byzantine influences that were still a part of Venetian architecture during the Renaissance.
The building sees double-duty as both art museum and concert hall. Listening to Monteverdi in this setting it is easy to imagine oneself a native of the period.
But the main attraction remains the interior decoration and works created under the guidance of Jacopo Tintoretto. Such works as the Allegories, Life and Passion of Christ and many others made him one of the most sought after religious painters of the day.
Visitors from all over the world come here to see The Annunciation and The Epiphany. They spend long periods enraptured by the beauty and depth of The Flight to Egypt. Tintoretto was famed for his mastery of perspective gleaned from Michelangelo, his use of color learned by studying Titian and the psychological depth of his characterizations which can’t be taught.
The two large main rooms of San Rocco are covered – walls, ceilings and stairways – with evidence of this artist’s skill and insight. The ceiling is low, making it easier to see the art. Rising up the highly decorated staircase brings one within easy reach of equally impressive objects, such as the massive paintings hanging from the rafters.
The works gathered here were created over a period of more than 20 years. The results, which began from a contest held in 1564, show how much he achieved in that time.
His winning entry of Saint Rocco in Glory hangs in the center of the ceiling. His Last Supper shows his unconventionality, as it focuses on the gift of the Eucharist, rather than a simple conversation between the apostles. From early works to paintings made in maturity, Tintoretto continued to astound his contemporaries. His work creates that same reaction today.
Visit the Scuola Grande Di San Rocco and see for yourself why.