Your source for art news from the AGO and beyond.

Presented by Signature Partner

#RetroAGO: A Crowdfunded Masterpiece

It’s amazing what can happen when a community comes together.

Jacopo Tintoretto, Christ Washing His Disciples' Feet, c. 1545

Jacopo Tintoretto. Christ Washing His Disciples' Feet, c. 1545-1555. Oil on canvas, 154.9 × 407.7 cm. Gift by general subscription, 1959. © Art Gallery of Ontario 58/51

In a time with so much uncertainty, our communities are coming together in unique ways to support those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To celebrate this legacy of community spirit, we’re throwing it back to 1959 (over 60 years ago!) when Toronto came together to help crowdfund an incredible masterpiece by the Italian master, Jacopo Tintoretto

On February 13, 1959, we showcased a new purchase at the Gallery, Jacopo Tintoretto’s Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet. This beautiful, large-scale oil painting on canvas was made 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 (now the AGO) 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-inch squares of white paper. The Gallery then 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 paper squares were removed to reveal the reproduction. Once all the squares were purchased and the masterpiece fully revealed, the Gallery had officially raised enough money to buy the painting.

Today, this beautiful Tintoretto is a visitor favourite at the AGO. We even hear from supporters who bought a square inch back in the ‘50s who get excited to see the painting they helped purchase, hanging in the gallery. 

When the AGO reopens, we invite you to come see the large-scale painting for yourself in the Reuben Wells Leonard Memorial Gallery on Level 1. Pro tip: if you look closely from different angles in the room, you may notice a subtle optical illusion as the diagonal lines of the tiled floor seem to shift around the painting’s focal point

The generosity of Torontonians also helped the AGO with the recent acquisition of Yayoi Kusama’s INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM: LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER – which will also be on view when the museum reopens. 

Looking for more art news from the AGO and beyond? Stay tuned to the AGOinsider.

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.