Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto (Venice 1519 – Venice 1594
Christ and the Adulteress

1545-1548 ca.

Oil on canvas

119 x 168 cm

Palazzo Barberini

Inv: 1460

“Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” Following Jesus’ words, become proverbial, silence seems to have fallen on the figures. The woman taken in adultery, standing with her arms raised, risked being stoned to death, but is now free. The crowd of scribes and Pharisees that surrounded her shortly before is slinking away: the last can still be seen on the far right near the soldiers, but will soon leave the scene. The disciples stand in a semicircle behind Jesus, as if forming a block opposed to the Pharisees, whose aim in this episode had been not so much to punish the adulteress as to force Jesus into a contradiction, and diminish his popularity by compelling him to pass sentence on the woman. The scene is set in a Renaissance-style architectural setting. The rows of columns and the lozenge-shaped paving converge on the vanishing point at the far right, creating an outstanding spatial depth. An interesting feature is the presence of the indecipherable characters at Jesus’ feet, true to the story as it is told in the Gospel of Saint John, where we read: “But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.”