The Church of the Salute is farther assisted by the beautiful flight of steps in front of it down to the canal; and its façade is rich and beautiful of its kind, and was chosen by Turner for the principal object in his well known view of the Grand Canal. The principal faults of the building are the meagre windows in the sides of the cupola, and the ridiculous disguise of the buttresses under the form of colossal scrolls; the buttresses themselves being originally a hypocrisy, for the cupola is stated by Lazari to be of timber, and therefore needs none. The sacristy contains several precious pictures: the three on its roof by Titian, much vaunted, are indeed as feeble as they are monstrous; but the small Titian, St. Mark with Sts. Cosmo and Damian, was, when I first saw it, to my judgment, by far the first work of Titian's in Venice. It has since been restored by the Academy, and it seemed to me entirely destroyed, but I had not time to examine it carefully.

The Marriage in Cana. Tintoret

The Marriage in Cana.

At the end of the larger sacristy is the lunette which once decorated the tomb of the Doge Francesco Dandolo, and, at the side of it, one of the most highly finished Tintoret's in Venice, namely: The Marriage in Cana. An immense picture, some twenty-five feet long by fifteen high, and said by Lazari to be one of the few which Tintoret signed with his name. I am not surprised at his having done so in this case. Evidently the work has been a favourite with him, and he has taken as much pains as it was ever necessary for his colossal strength to take with anything. The subject is not one which admits of much singularity or energy in composition. It was always a favourite one with Veronese, because it gave dramatic interest to figures in gay costumes and of cheerful countenances; but one is surprised to find Tintoret, whose tone of mind was always grave, and who did not like to make a picture out of brocades and diadems, throwing his whole strength into the conception of a marriage feast; but so it is, and there are assuredly no female heads in any of his pictures in Venice elaborated so far as those which here form the central light. Neither is it often that the works of this mighty master conform themselves to any of the rules acted upon by ordinary painters; but in this instance the popular laws have been observed, and an academy student would be delighted to see with what severity the principal light is arranged in a central mass, which is divided and made more brilliant by a vigorous piece of shadow thrust into the midst of it, and which dies away in lesser fragments and sparkling towards the extremities of the picture. This mass of light is as interesting by its composition as by its intensity. The cicerone who escorts the stranger round the sacristy in the course of five minutes and allows him some forty seconds for the contemplation of a picture which the study of six months would not entirely fathom, directs his attention very carefully to the "bell' effetto di prospettivo," the whole merit of the picture being, in the eyes of the intelligent public, that there is a long table in it, one end of which looks further off than the other; but there is more in the "bell' effetto di prospettivo" than the observance of the common law of optics. The table is set in a spacious chamber, of which the windows at the end let in the light from the horizon, and those in the side wall the intense blue of an Eastern sky. The spectator looks all along the table, at the farther end of which are seated Christ and the Madonna, the marriage guests on each side of it,—on one side men, on the other women; the men are set with their backs to the light, which passing over their heads and glancing slightly on the table-cloth, falls in full length along the line of young Venetian women, who thus fill the whole centre of the picture with one broad sunbeam, made up of fair faces and golden hair. Close to the spectator a woman has risen in amazement, and stretches across the table to show the wine in her cup to those opposite; her dark red dress intercepts and enhances the mass of gathered light. It is rather curious, considering the subject of the picture, that one cannot distinguish either the bride or the bride-groom; but the fourth figure from the Madonna in the line of women, who wears a white head-dress of lace and rich chains of pearls in her hair, may well be accepted for the former, and I think that between her and the woman on the Madonna's left hand the unity of the line of women is intercepted by a male figure: be this as it may, this fourth female face is the most beautiful, as far as I recollect, that occurs in the works of the painter, with the exception only of the Madonna in the Flight into Egypt. It is an ideal which occurs indeed elsewhere in many of his works, a face at once dark and delicate, the Italian cast of feature moulded with the softness and childishness of English beauty some half a century ago; but I have never seen the ideal so completely worked out by the master. The face may best be described as one of the purest and softest of Stothard's conceptions, executed with all the strength of Tintoret. The other women are all made inferior to this one, but there are beautiful profiles and bendings of breasts and necks along the whole line. The men are all subordinate, though there are interesting portraits among them; perhaps the only fault of the picture being that the faces are a little too conspicuous, seen like balls of light among the crowd of minor figures which fill the background of the picture. The tone of the whole is sober and majestic in the highest degree; the dresses are all broad masses of colour, and the only parts of the picture which lay claim to the expression of wealth or splendour are the head-dresses of the women. In this respect the conception of the scene differs widely from that of Veronese, and approaches more nearly to the probable truth. Still the marriage is not an important one; an immense crowd, filling the background, forming superbly rich mosaic of colour against the distant sky. Taken as a whole the picture is perhaps the most perfect example which human art has produced of the utmost possible force and sharpness of shadow united with richness of local colour. In all the other works of Tintoret, and much more of other colourists, either the light and shade or the local colour is predominant; in the one case the picture has a tendency to look as if painted by candle-light, in the other it becomes daringly conventional, and approaches the conditions of glass-painting. This picture unites colour as rich as Titian's with light and shade as forcible as Rembrandt's, and far more decisive.

There are one or two other interesting pictures of the early Venetian school in this sacristy, and several important tombs in the adjoining cloister; among which that of Francesco Dandolo, transported here from the Church of the Frari, deserves especial attention.

Stones of Venice (London, 1853).