Lonely Planet Writer

Venice set to celebrate Tintoretto's 500th birthday

A slew of events attends the quincentenary of one of Venice’s most beloved old masters. Jacopo Robisti, better known as Tintoretto, was born in Venice in 1518 (though the exact date is unknown). To celebrate the 500th anniversary of his birth, Venice and other cities around the world are preparing some pretty special events.

The Church of San Rocco stands adjacent to the Scuola. Image by Lydia Allegretto

Getting the party started is Venezia Arte, a non-profit cultural association, which is organising monthly guided tours around the city focusing on the churches containing the artist’s works and even visiting the artist’s home. First on the itinerary is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, containing over sixty works by Tintoretto and dedicated to St Roch. Tintoretto spent over twenty years working in the Scuola, so it is a fitting place to start the celebrations. The first four tours (from 27 January to 28 April) are in Italian only, but other tours in English will be available later in the year. Check the website for details.

Doge’s palace (Palazzo Ducale). Venice. Italy. Image by Shutterstock

However, the major birthday event takes place on 7 September with the Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500 exhibition opening at the Doge’s Palace. The exhibition will contain over seventy paintings and drawings, many of them coming from the Accademia Galleries. If you miss the exhibition in Venice, never fear, you can catch it at the National Gallery Washington DC from March 2019. One of the show’s curators is Tintoretto expert Frederick Ilchman, who was also on the curatorial team for the major Tintoretto exhibition at Madrid’s Prado exhibition back in 2007. He and co-curator Robert Echols will be offering new insights into the artist’s work; essays by them and other Tintoretto scholars will appear in a catalogue in Italian and English accompanying the exhibition.

One of Tintoretto’s masterpieces in the Scuola’s entrance. Image by Lydia Allegretto

Another important date in the Venetian calendar is the Festa di San Rocco (St Roch’s Day, 16 August). To celebrate, the Scuola di San Rocco allows free entry to the public. In 2018 this will also be a great way to celebrate one of Venice’s triumvirate of Renaissance painters. If you like your birthday festivities a little more low-key, then simply do some homework and make your own Tintoretto itinerary around the city, popping from church to church in search of your favourite work. Wherever Tintoretto leads you, he won’t disappoint.  

By Jo-Ann Titmarsh