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Scuola Grande San Rocco

Scuola Grande San Rocco (23)

This fraternity, initially dedicated to providing healthcare for the sick in the times when the plague was rampant, received the prestigious title of Scuola Grande in 1489. Shortly after, it was decided to build a centre befitting its importance, for which the services of Bartolomeo Bon were required.

Although the work by Bon was completed, successively, by the architects Sante Lombardo, Scarpagnino and Giangiacomo dei Grigi, the result of the construction is excellent, above all in the superb façade, reminiscent of the architecture of ancient Rome.

However, it would be absurd to deny that the great attraction of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is not the building in itself, but the excellent decoration that takes it that much further. The fact is the walls and ceilings of the scuola bear the unmistakable stamp of the most prolific and inspired years of Jacopo Robusti, Tintoretto. 

In fact, the paintings in the three main rooms, produced between 1564 and 1588, constitute for Venice, according to some critics that have appraised their thematic unity and expressive strength, a work on a par with the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo.

The massive task was entrusted to Tintoretto after winning the public tender put out in 1564 to decide on the artist to paint the ceiling of one of the three rooms, the Sala dell’Albergo. To the surprise and consummate rage of his rivals, Tintoretto placed his panel before the committee had taken the decision, and finally ended up with the commission. 

Today, if you look at the ceiling you will be able to see this work, titled The Glorification of the Saint. However, the work in this room that has traditionally been given most praise for its beauty and complexity has been The Crucifixion.

In the Higher Room, the works refer to the nature of the charity hospital that the Scuola Grande di San Rocco had been. This is the case of the canvases on the ceiling, the titles of which are Moses brings water forth from the rock, The miracle of the bronze serpent and The manna. There are also some significant episodes from the New Testament, such as The Temptation of Christ.

In the Lower Room are the last paintings produced by a by-now very old Tintoretto. These works illustrate, in a panoramic way, the life of the Virgin Mary, beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Assumption.

Experts believe that the fifty works kept here represent the utmost genius of Tintoretto, who had never previously reached such levels of mastery in the use of light and the administering of the strength and expressiveness of his figures. 

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