Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Bank of America - Merril Lynch
Tintoretto and “The Paradise”: a work for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace A fire in the Doge’s Palace in Venice in 1577 damaged both the building’s structure and much of its decoration. One of the rooms that suffered its effects was the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, an extremely large hall where the numerous members of the Council met, numbering more than 1,000 Venetian patricians in the 16th century. The Maggior Consiglio decided all legislative issues relating to the city. The principal wall of the room had been decorated in 1365 with a fresco by the Paduan artist Guariento that had suffered damage and deterioration, for which reason a competition was announced to replace it with a new one on the theme of the Glory and Coronation of the Virgin. Entering this competition, which seems to have taken place around 1582, were the most important Venetian painters of the day: Jacopo Palma il Giovane, who presented a preliminary design for The Paradise (Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan); Veronese, who presented a composition now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille; Francesco Bassano, who entered The Coronation of the Virgin, known as The Paradise (State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg); and Tintoretto, with The Paradise (now Musée du Louvre). After a complex series of events Tintoretto finally gained the commission. However, according to the most recently accepted hypothesis, after securing the commission Tintoretto presented a new preliminary design for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio. This is the one now in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which differs very significantly from the preliminary design now in the Louvre that he had entered for the competition.

The Thyssen canvas is a work from the mature phase of Tintoretto’s career, painted when he was around seventy. It reveals all the characteristics of his late style such as the use of more compact figures and an emphasis on chiaroscuro. The composition of The Coronation of the Virgin, inspired by Dante’s “Paradise”, is structured around the different groups of angels, heavenly hierarchies and the Blessed, located among the clouds and surrounding the central scene with its depiction of Christ crowning his mother, the Virgin Mary.

The story of this work’s creation and the details of the competition for the decoration of the Doge’s Palace were the subject of in-depth analysis in the travelling exhibition Tintoretto. The Paradise, held at the Musée du Louvre, Paris (9 February-8 May 2006), the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (8 June to 27 August 2006) and the Doge’s Palace, Venice (6 September-30 November 2006).

Mª Eugenia Alonso
Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto (Venice, 1519-1594)    |  The Paradise (detail)