Christ Washing his Disciples' Feet

Jacopo Robusti was nicknamed El Tintoretto because he was the son of a dyer. Brought up among dyes and cloth, his colours and the rich textures of the fabrics he painted are a joy to behold.

In this picture, Tintoretto has created an almost theatrical scene, framed by classical architecture, with a Venetian canal and a delightful Triumphal Arch in the background.

The main subject has been relegated to the right hand side of the picture, where we can see Jesus washing the feet of a reluctant and protesting Peter. You may be wondering why the most important scene is on the side of the picture rather than the centre of the composition, as we are accustomed to seeing them. It is because this picture was originally hung on the right hand side of a long room, so that the first thing one saw on entering it was the section where Jesus is. The study of perspective, as you can see from the table and the floor, is impeccable.

In the centre of the picture there is an entirely anecdotal scene, showing an apostle heaving off another’s boots while, on his left, another apostle is removing his sandals. The figures’ haloes are barely-visible auras around their heads.

Tintoretto has juggled with colour, using both cold blues and warm reds and oranges for the clothing.

For a final detail, take a look at the dog in the foreground. Its presence in the picture caused the artist some trouble with the Inquisition, who considered it to be irreverent.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns