The name of Jacopo Tintoretto is closely linked to that of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco: it was he who carried out most of the pictorial decoration of the majestic Renaissance building, which was built between 1517 and 1549 to a project initially designed by Bartolomeo Bon. The relationship between the painter and the school started as early as 1564. It led to a painting cycle which was one of the most important in the Venetian Cinquecento in terms of quality and completeness: it has even been referred to as “Tintoretto’s Sistine Chapel”. That year a competition was launched to choose the artist to whom the decoration of the building was to be entrusted: as his contemporaries relate, Jacopo beat all his colleagues and managed to ensure the important commission for himself by donating a painting of St Rocco in Glory for the ceiling of the Sala dell’Albergo, even before the deadline for submission of the models was reached.
With some brief intervals, Tintoretto worked for the school from 1564 all the way through to May 1588, when he completed his last two works: the altar painting of the Apparition of St Rocco, which still hangs over the altar of the main hall on the first floor, and the canvas with The Visitation, now displayed on a stand in the same hall but, as documented by 17th-century sources, originally placed over the arch of the landing which leads to the flight of stairs up to the top hall.