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The unknown subject looks directly at the viewer. Dressed in a coat that almost entirely disappears into the darkness of the background, he holds the fur trimming with his left hand to keep the coat closed. Tintoretto uses this trick to distance the subject from the viewer despite the direct eye contact. He gives the man’s skin a tone that corresponds with his dark-red shirt and emphasises the varied structure and quality of his hair and beard. With simple compositional means and striking illumination, Tintoretto gives his aged subject a strong presence, individuality and “spiritual beauty”, a quality that is increasingly found in Tintoretto’s late portraits. Contrary to long-held assumptions, the painting is now ascribed to Tintoretto himself and no longer to his son Domenico. It owes its popularity in Austria not least to the role it played as a persistently recurring motif in Thomas Bernhard’s comedy "Alte Meister" (1985) (Old Masters, 1989). © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

Details

  • Title: Man with a White Beard
  • Creator: Jacopo Robusti,called Tintoretto
  • Date Created: 1570/1578
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm
  • Physical Dimensions: w595 x h924 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 25
  • Artist Biography: Jacopo Tintoretto was nicknamed "little dyer" for his father's humble occupation of tintore, a dyer, and il Furioso for his violent application of paint. When Venetian dignitaries observing him asked why he worked much faster than others, the artist quipped, "Because they haven't got so many pests around to drive them crazy." Tintoretto's early training is unknown. Legend claims that an envious Titian expelled his talented pupil after ten days. Following collaboration with Andrea Schiavone and others on cassone panels, Tintoretto introduced a similar time-saving, economical technique into monumental painting--and garnered criticism for lack of finish. Above all, Tintoretto wanted to display his work. He regularly painted frescoes and canvases for his materials' cost or for nothing. When a confraternity asked artists to submit sketches for a painting in 1564, Tintoretto brought a finished picture as a gift. His low prices invited commissions throughout the confraternity's building. Except for visiting Mantua around 1580, Tintoretto stayed in Venice, where his dramatic, colorful Mannerist style eventually dominated. He painted mostly religious subjects. His pictures show unexpected viewpoints and striking perspective, while many subordinate scenes recall everyday life. He also made many portraits and taught two sons and a daughter in his workshop. © J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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