Jacopo Tintoretto and workshop, The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquisition no. 13.75
The separation of the crowd into two groups by gender was not unprecedented when Tintoretto did this painting. Compare this drawing of the same event from 1536:
However, Tintoretto foregrounds the women and emphasizes their role as nurturers by giving several of them small children and having one escort a crippled man toward Christ. The nursing woman right of center is a common allegorical figure for Charity. This emphasizes Jesus' characterization of the bread as "Moses gave you bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from Heaven" that "giveth life to the world" (John 6:32-33). The needs and numerousness of all who are in Jesus' world are expressed by the vast crowd portrayed in grisaille in the far background.
Many of the details of this painting are reprised years later in Tintoretto's Fall of Manna (1593), most notably the grisaille of a crowd in the far background, the prominence of women, the old men with long gray beards and pink mantles, the riverine setting with hills, and so on.
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More of the miracle of the loaves and fishes
Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.