ca. 1588 – oil on canvas, cm 154 x 350
This painting originally belonged to Lunardo Formenti – secretary of Venice’s Council of Ten and governor of the Ospedale dei Derelitti – who in his will of 1689 left to the pious institution all his properties, including his paintings, should his family name become extinct.
Over the centuries the canvas was heavily reworked, but in the 1970s the painting was restored to its original readability allowing a secure attribution to the great Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto.
Further studies carried out during the years that followed have ascertained that this is not a “copy” of Tintoretto’s imposing painting displayed in the Great Council Hall in the Doge’s Palace but rather an autographed model that, compared to the numerous (seven at least) modelletti that have been documented, is characterised by specific variants and additions. The presence of so many preparatory works is probably due to the long elaboration this project required. Originally the artists selected were Paolo Veronese and Francesco Bassano, only later was Jacopo Tintoretto officially appointed: he managed to infuse so many doubts in the jury, presenting so many new ideas and versions, that he was able to overturn the result in his favour.
We must not forget that besides the obvious religious meaning, the subject also channelled a major political message. The Paradise theme was a way to celebrate the Buon Governo, or Good Government, of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and the imposing heavenly jury in the painting was supposed to inspire the Great Council that gathered in the very heart of the Serenissima.