Letha Chien

Dissertation Fellow
2013-2014
Letha Chien

In prospering fifteenth-century Venice, paintings portrayed miracles performed by Christian saints as inconspicuous, everyday occurrences. A century later, Tintoretto painted radically new and disruptive versions of Saint Mark’s miracles for the city’s preeminent lay religious confraternity. In her dissertation, "Tintoretto's San Marco Cycle," Letha Chien (History of Art) examines the complex interrelation of civic identity, pictorial imaging, and the nature of the miraculous in sixteenth-century Venetian painting. Chien argues that wars and the political and economic decline of Venice must be seen as a backdrop to the new vision of venezianità (the idea of being Venetian) in Tintoretto’s exuberant depiction of the miraculous. Chien’s intensive study of Tintoretto’s paintings in Venice engenders a deep understanding of the techniques Tintoretto used to portray miracles as disruptive events in which the force of the divine can disintegrate material form.