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The Origin of the Milky Way

Tintorettoabout 1575

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London

The probable source for the subject was a Byzantine botanical text-book, 'Geoponica', in which it is related how Jupiter, wishing to immortalise the infant Hercules (whose mother was the mortal Alcmene), held him to the breasts of the sleeping Juno. The milk which spurted upwards formed the Milky Way, while some fell downwards giving rise to lilies.

Lilies were once present at the base of the painting, until a part of the original canvas was cut off.

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Details

  • Title: The Origin of the Milky Way
  • Creator: Jacopo Tintoretto
  • Date Created: about 1575
  • Physical Dimensions: 149.4 x 168 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Italian (Venetian)
  • Inventory number: NG1313
  • Artist Biography: Tintoretto's family name was Robusti; he took the name Tintoretto from his father's profession of dyer (tintore in Italian). Tintoretto's art is characterised by daring inventiveness in both handling and composition. Most of his paintings are large-scale narratives on canvas, animated by dramatic lighting and gestures. The 19th-century copy of 'The Miracle of Saint Mark' gives an impression of this type of work. Tintoretto was deeply influenced by Titian; he wanted to combine Titian's use of colour with the energised forms of Michelangelo. Tintoretto is usually described as a Mannerist, although his striving for effect is less in the cause of stylishness and more for the sake of narrative drama. He appears to have lived and worked for most of his life in Venice, only once being recorded on a visit outside of the city, to Mantua in 1580. After Titian's death Tintoretto, with Veronese, became one of the leading painters in the city,controlling a large workshop. He designed and worked on a number of commissions for the Doge's Palace, and on an outstanding cycle of paintings for the Scuola di San Rocco, which are still in their original location.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought, 1890

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