Tintoretto sometimes made little clay or wax figures to use as models for his paintings.
He would clothe them like dolls. Then he put them inside a little box, arranged them like miniature actors in a toy theater, and shined light on them to see just how it fell.
He might draw these little actors or start right out painting them, using the little theater for reference. He liked to make unusual effects with light and this was his way of experimenting.
His wax and clay figures have all been lost, but some of his drawings seem to show these little models. This is a sketch for his Venus, Vulcan, and Mars, now in the Alte Pinakothek of Munich. It looks very much like a doll-house study.
What is going on? Venus has committed adultery with Mars, who is hiding under the bed and trying to hush the dog. Her husband, old Vulcan, is suspicious. That circle behind him is a mirror with his reflection.
To perfect his little doll, did Tintoretto finally use a real girl as a model for this beautiful Venus?