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Tintoretto - Gathering of Manna

by Alexandra Tuschka

The Israelites are hungry! Already the third month has begun and the food supplies are running out. Resistance to the leaders Moses and Aaron arises among the people. God sees the dilemma and assures his help. After a swarm of quails provides meat, in the morning manna is found on the earth, a sweet-tasting food, which the people now gather in jars. But be modest. That which is gathered too much begins to stink and rot. God assures this food throughout the time the people spend in the desert - 40 years. Therefore, the motif of the "mannalese" or the "manna miracle" is especially popular in sacred spaces, because it is an example of the certainty of divine assistance. 

The sky opens and in the light God the Father appears. His manna blessing appears here in the form of hosts. In biblical tradition, manna is also known as "food of the angels" or "bread of life," so this is not surprising here. This representation possibly also serves as a preannouncement of the miraculous multiplication of bread or Eucharist. 

Two large-format figures border the picture on the sides. They serve as mediator figures and lead the viewer's gaze further into the picture's interior. The man on the right is none other than Moses, who points to the center of the picture in an expressive gesture. He can be recognized by the two rays that leave his head and are his attribute .The left figure has a wicker basket in his hands to catch the falling manna. Between olive trees is stretched a cloth, which should serve the same purpose. Perhaps it was hung up before to keep out the sun and can now be misused for the happy incident. The surprise has succeeded! Some shepherds still lie tired and grumpy on the rocks and only begin to understand what is going on here. 

In this almost square work of art of more than 25 square meters, the miracle of the manna rain can be seen. The work is on the ceiling of the "Sala Superior" of the Scuola di San Rocco, which houses a cycle of 56 paintings by Tintoretto. 

Tintoretto - Gathering of Manna

Oil on canvas, 1577, 550 x 520 cm, Sculoa di San Rocco in Venice


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