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#RetroAGO: A crowdfunded masterpiece

February 20th, 2018

We live in an age of crowdfunding, where sites like Kickstarter bring innovative products to market. We don’t want to brag or anything, but we were ahead of the curve. We crowdfunded a magnificent Tintoretto painting back in the 1950s.

On February 13, 1959 – 59 years ago – we showcased a new purchase at the Gallery, Jacobo Tintoretto’s Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet. This beautiful, large-scale oil painting on canvas was painted between 1545–1555 and depicts a Bible passage from John 13, describing how Christ washes the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper.

When the Tintoretto was for sale, the Art Gallery of Toronto (the original name of the AGO) wanted to purchase it. The Gallery came up with an out-of-the-box idea: while the real Tintoretto hung on the Gallery walls, a full-size reproduction of the painting was hung in front of it, covered by one-by-one-inch squares of white paper. The Gallery sold one square inch to supporters, visitors and members of the public for $10 each – pretty good deal for a masterpiece! As contributions came rolling in, the squares were removed to reveal the reproduction. Once all the squares were purchased, the Gallery had officially raised enough money to buy the painting.

Today, the beautiful Tintoretto is a popular work at the AGO. And we often hear from supporters who bought a square inch back in the ‘50s and now say how great it is to see the painting on our walls.

Want to see it yourself? As part of Look: Forward, the Tintoretto can now be found in the Reuben Wells Leonard Memorial Gallery on Level 1.

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