A faithful partner to the Venice Film Festival for the past ten years, Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to strengthen its links with the city of Venice, by announcing a new charitable initiative with a unique location dedicated to art the “Scuola Grande di San Rocco”. A historic monument very close to the hearts of Venetians.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s affinity with the city can easily be explained by the history of the Grande Maison which, since 1833, has endeavoured to perfect the technical and aesthetic craftmanships behind making a timepiece unique. Enamel, engraving and setting of precious stones are all virtuoso artistic professions which Jaeger-LeCoultre employs for the watchmaking and artistic creations that are mastered under its roof. A desire to preserve know-how and artistic creations were born of a long standing heritage that has been perpetually reinvented by the craftsmen of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. And what city better than Venice symbolises this meeting between artist, craftsman and cultural heritage?
In Venice, Jaeger-LeCoultre discovered the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, an exceptional place rendered unique by the creations of an earlier artist, the painter Tintoretto (1518-1594). Aware of the heritage and beauty of the location, Jaeger-LeCoultre thus naturally decided to become a patron of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in order to preserve this heritage.
Located in the San Polo quarter, near the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco was founded in 1478 under the patronage of Saint Rocco, patron saint of the plague-stricken invoked as the protector from calamities running rampant in Europe. This confraternity, which was one of the richest in Venice, was involved with charitable organisations and provided assistance in the event of illness or death.
The confraternity consists of the Scuola Grande, a monumental 16th century building, the church built at the end of the 18th century, as well as the Scoletta which was the initial headquarters of the association.
The construction of the building began in 1515 with Bartolomeo Bon who created the Ground Floor. Work was continued by Sante Lombardo and then, from 1527, by Antonio Scarpagnino who completed the upper portion and harmonised the façade with the construction of a double row of columns. After his death in 1549, the work was entrusted to Giangiacomo dei Grigi.
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is composed of two large halls – the Ground Floor Hall and the Upper Hall on the first floor – and a smaller one on the first floor called the Albergo.
Enhanced by Tintoretto’s work
Tintoretto (1518-1594), who was himself a member of the Scuola, devoted a great deal of his life to decorating the confraternity. The result of his work is staggering: the walls of the rooms and the ceilings of those in the Upper Hall are completely covered with his canvases. The Scuola di San Rocco is thus nicknamed the “Sistine Chapel of Venice”.
The Albergo Room decorated between 1564 and 1567 presents a scene from the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion, one of the painter’s most recognised works. Tintoretto subsequently decorated the Upper Hall from 1575 to 1581. This room is 44 metres long, and features scenes from the Old and New Testament. The painter returned to work at the confraternity from 1583 to 1587. He was nearly 70 years old but painted eight big canvases on the Ground Floor, a hall composed of three naves separated by slender columns.
Jacopo Robusti, nicknamed Tintoretto, owes his nickname of “little dyer” to his father’s profession. Titian, who was his teacher, as well as Michelangelo both profoundly influenced his style and motto: “Michelangelo’s design and Titian’s colour”. Although the painter’s work at the confraternity developed over the years, progressing from a descriptive realism to visionary compositions, his passion for light effects can be found in every one of his works. Before painting, he created wax statues of his models to experiment with the angle of light sources. The light emphasises the shapes and colours of compositions and supports his stage-setting genuis by enabling him to re-transcribe space and movement. Like a filmmaker, Tintoretto was capable of telling impressive stories and stirring emotions through his canvases.
A duty of conservation
Jaeger-LeCoultre is beginning a three-year restoration programme through several donations. The light and marble of the Ground Floor and the Upper Hall will be restored in order to enhance the carefully set scene of this unique place.