IT was between four and five hundred years ago that
Venice sat most proudly on her throne as Queen of
the Sea. She had the greatest fleet in all the
Mediterranean. She bought and sold more than any other
nation. She had withstood the shock of battle and
conquered all her foes, and now she had time to deck
herself with all the beauty which art and wealth could
The merchants of Venice sailed to every port and
carried with them wonderful shiploads of goods, for
which their city was famous—silks, velvets, lace, and
rich brocades. The secret of the marvellous Tyrian
dyes had been discovered by her people, and there
were many dyers in Venice who were specially
famous for the purple dye of Tyre, which was
thought to be the most beautiful in all the world.
Then too they had learned the art of blowing glass
into fairy-like forms, as delicate and light as a bubble,
catching in it every shade of colour, and twisting it
into a hundred exquisite shapes. Truly there had
never been a richer or more beautiful city than this
Queen of the Sea.
It was just when the glory of Venice was at its
highest that Art too reached its height, and Giorgione
 and Titian began to paint the walls of her palaces
and the altarpieces of her churches.
In the very centre of the city where the poorer
Venetians had their houses, there lived about this
time a man called Battista Robusti who was a dyer,
or 'tintore,' as he is called in Italy. It was his little
son Jacopo who afterwards became such a famous
artist. His grand-sounding name 'Tintoretto'
means nothing but 'the little dyer,' and it was given
to him because of his father's trade.
Tintoretto must have been brought up in the
midst of gorgeous colours. Not only did he see the
wonderful changing tints of the outside world, but
in his father's workshop he must often have watched
the rich Venetian stuffs lifted from the dye vats,
heavy with the crimson and purple shades for which
Venice was famous. Perhaps all this glowing colour
wearied his young eyes, for when he grew to be a
man his pictures show that he loved solemn and dark
tones, though he could also paint the most brilliant
colours when he chose.
Of course, the boy Tintoretto began by painting
the walls of his father's house, as soon as he was old
enough to learn the use of dyes and paints. Even
if he had not had in him the artist soul, he could
scarcely have resisted the temptation to spread those
lovely colours on the smooth white walls. Any
child would have done the same, but Tintoretto's
mischievous fingers already showed signs of talent,
and his father, instead of scolding him for wasting
colours and spoiling the walls, encouraged him to go
on with his pictures.
 As the boy grew older, his great delight was to
wander about the city and watch the men at work
building new palaces. But especially did he linger
near those walls which Titian and Giorgione were
covering with their wonderful frescoes. High on the
scaffolding he would see the painters at work, and
as he watched the boy would build castles in the air,
and dream dreams of a time when he too would be a
master-painter, and be bidden by Venice to decorate
To Tintoretto's mind Titian was the greatest man
in all the world, and to be taught by him the greatest
honour that heart could wish. So it was perhaps the
happiest day in all his life when his father decided to
take him to Titian's studio and ask the master to
receive him as a pupil.
But the happiness lasted but a very short time.
Titian did not approve of the boy's work, and
refused to keep him in the studio; so poor, disappointed
Tintoretto went home again, and felt as if all
sunshine and hope had gone for ever from his life. It
was a bitter disappointment to his father and mother
too, for they had set their hearts on the boy becoming
an artist. But in spite of all this, Tintoretto did
not lose heart or give up his dreams. He worked
on by himself in his own way, and Titian's paintings
taught him many things even though the master
himself refused to help him. Then too he saw some
work of the great Michelangelo, and learned many
a lesson from that. Thenceforward his highest ideal
was always 'the drawing of Michelangelo and the
colour of Titian.
 The young artist lived in a poor, bare room, and
most of his money went in the buying of little pieces
of old sculpture or casts. He had a very curious
way of working the designs for his pictures. Instead
of drawing many sketches, he made little wax models
of figures and arranged them inside a cardboard or
wooden box in which there was a hole to admit
a lighted candle. So, besides the grouping of the
figures, he could also arrange the light and shade.
But, though he worked hard, fame was long in
coming to Tintoretto. People did not understand
his way of painting. It was not after the manner
of any of the great artists, and they were rather
afraid of his bold, furious-looking work.
Nevertheless Tintoretto worked steadily on, always
hoping, and whenever there was a chance of doing
any work, even without receiving payment for it, he
seized it eagerly.
It happened just then that the young Venetian
artists had agreed to have a show of their paintings,
and had hired a room for the exhibition in the
Merceria, the busiest part of Venice.
Tintoretto was very glad of the chance of showing
his work, so he sent in a portrait of himself and also
one of his brother. As soon as these pictures were
seen people began to take more notice of the clever
young painter, and even Titian allowed that his work
was good. His portraits were always fresh and life-
like, and he drew with a bold strong touch, as you
will see if you look at the drawing I have shown you
—the head of a Venetian boy, such as Tintoretto
met daily among the fisher-folk of Venice.
DRAWING BY TINTORETTO
 From that time Fortune began to smile on Tintoretto.
Little by little work began to come in. He
was asked to paint altarpieces for the churches, and
even at last, when his name became famous, he was
invited to work upon the walls of the Ducal Palace,
the highest honour which a Venetian painter could
hope to win.
The days of the poor, bare studio, and lonely, sad
life were ended now. Tintoretto had no longer to
struggle with poverty and neglect. His house was a
beautiful palace looking over the lagoon towards
Murano, and he had married the daughter of a
Venetian noble, and lived a happy, contented life.
Children's voices made gay music in his home, and
the pattering of little feet broke the silence of his
studio. Fame had come to him too. His work
might be strange but it was very wonderful, and
Venice was proud of her new painter. His great
stormy pictures had earned for him the name off 'the
furious painter,' and the world began to acknowledge
But the real sunshine of his life was his little
daughter Marietta. As soon as she learned to walk
she found her way to her father's studio, and until
she was fifteen years old she was always with him
and helped him as if she had been one of his pupils.
She was dressed too as a boy, and visitors to the
studio never guessed that the clever, handsome boy
was really the painter's daughter.
There were many great schools in Venice at that
time, and there was much work to be done in decorating
their walls with paintings. A school was not really
 a place of education, but a society of people who
joined themselves together in charity to nurse the
sick, bury the dead, and release any prisoners who
had been taken captive. One of the greatest of the
schools was the 'Scuola de San Rocco,' and this was
given into the hands of Tintoretto, who covered the
walls with his paintings, leaving but little room for
But it is in the Ducal Palace that the master's
most famous work is seen. There, covering the
entire side of the great hall, hangs his 'Paradiso,' the
largest oil painting in the world.
At first it seems but a gloomy picture of Paradise.
It is so vast, and such hundreds of figures are crowded
together, and the colour is dark and sombre. There
is none of that swinging of golden censers by white-
robed angels, none of the pure glad colouring of
spring flowers which makes us love the Paradise of
But if we stand long enough before it a great
awe steals over us, and we forget to look for bright
colours and gentle angel faces, for the figures surging
upwards are very real and human, and the Paradise
into which we gaze seems to reveal to our eyes the
very place where we ourselves shall stand one day.
At the time when Tintoretto was painting his
'Paradiso,' his little daughter Marietta had grown
to be a woman, and her painting too had become
famous. She was invited to the courts of Germany
and Spain to paint the portraits of the King and
Emperor, but she refused to leave Venice and her
beloved father. Even when she married Mario,
 the jeweller, she did not go far from home, and
Tintoretto grew every year fonder and prouder of
his clever and beautiful daughter. Not only could
she paint, but she played and sang most wonderfully,
and became a great favourite among the
But this happiness soon came to an end, for
Marietta died suddenly in the midst of her happy life.
Nothing could comfort Tintoretto for the loss of
his daughter. She was buried in the church of Santa
Maria dell' Orto, and there he ordered another place
to be prepared that he might be buried at her side.
It seemed, indeed, as if he could not live without her,
for it was not long before he passed away. The last
great stormy picture of 'the furious painter' was
finished, and all Venice mourned as they laid him to
rest beside the daughter he had loved so well.