Jacopo Tintoretto.  Last Supper. 1592-1594.  Venice.  Oil on canvas, 12 feet x 18 feet, 8 inches.

        The term ‘‘mannerist’’ was given first to Italian artists who used exaggeration, distortion, and expressiveness to free themselves from the High Renaissance styleScholars originally applied this term derisively, implying a derivative or decadent styleMore recently, mannerism has been seen as a search for new expressive methods outside the formal standards of Renaissance harmony and order.

        This self-conscious exaggeration and distortion is evident in the works of the Venetian, Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594).  His Last Supperis a masterpiece of late mannerist style, and a striking contrast to Leonardo da Vinci’s version.  Whereas Leonardo placed Christ as the geometric focal point of his painting, Tintoretto’s Christ is distinguished mainly by his mysterious halo.  Directional forces such as the diagonally placed table, glances, and gestures all lead the viewer’s eye in a complete circle around the room’s figures.  The lantern’s smoke is transmuted into angels, while in the foreground servants and everyday objects glow in a mystical light.  The picture communicates the profound mystery of the Last Supper, suggesting the transformation of matter into spirit.