The task comprises the scenes in the life of the Virgin, in the lower hall; the scenes in the life of Christ, on the walls of the upper hall; the scenes from the Old Testament, on the ceiling of the upper hall; and the last scenes in the life of Christ, in the Refectory. In short, the Scuola di S. Rocco is Tintoretto’s Sistine Chapel.
We enter to an “Annunciation”; and if we had not perceived before, we at once perceive here, in this building, Tintoretto’s innovating gift of realism. He brought dailiness into art. Tremendous as was his method, he never forgot the little things. His domestic details leaven the whole.
This “Annunciation” is the most dramatic version that exists. The Virgin has been sitting quietly sewing in her little room, poorly enough furnished, with a broken chair by the bed, when suddenly this celestial irruption—this urgent flying angel attended by a horde of cherubim or cupids and heralded by the Holy Spirit. At the first glance you think that the angel has burst through the wall, but that is not so. But as it is, even without that violence, how utterly different from the demure treatment of the Tuscans! To think of Fra Angelico and Tintoretto together is like placing a violet beside a tiger lily.
A little touch in the picture should be noticed: a carpenter at work outside. Very characteristic of Tintoretto.
Next—but here let me remind or inform the reader that the Venetian Index at the end of the later editions of The Stones of Venice contains an analysis of these works, by Ruskin, which is as characteristic of that writer as the pictures are of their artist. In particular is Ruskin delighted by “The Annunciation,” by “The Murder of the Innocents,” and, upstairs, by the ceiling paintings and the Refectory series.