Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Veronese Exhibit

図2 X7484, Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), Portrait of a Lady,
known as the "Bella Nani"
, about 1560-5, Oil on canvas,
119 × 103 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris (R.F. 2111),
© RMN (Musée du Louvre)/All rights reserved

An exhibit of the works of Veronese, a leading painter of 16th century Renaissance Venice is underway at the National Gallery in London. The showcased complex frescoes, altarpieces and portraits include ten from the Gallery’s collection and some 50 on loan from other European and American acquisitions.

Born in 1528 as the son of a stone cutter, Veronese was formally called Paolo Caliari but later changed his name to reflect his birthplace of Verona. Showing talent from a young age, by his late teens Veronese painted works commissioned by Verona’s aristocratic families. Although he is known as a Venetian painter, Veronese was born in Verona, some 100 kilometers west of Venice, and only moved to Venice when he was nearly 30 years old.

In Supper at Emmaus (around 1555, fig. 1) a Venetian aristocratic family is depicted taking part in the dinner at Emmaus. Jesus is seated in the center, looking up toward heaven and blessing the bread he holds in his left hand. Veronese does not focus on the Biblical event taking place in the center. On the right is a family uninterested in Christ, and in the foreground adorable children are frolicking with a dog. Rather than depict the holy world of God, Veronese painted Christ in the context of the daily life of Venetians. Christ and his disciples are portrayed in their traditional clothes while the others are wearing the current Venetian fashion.

fig.1 X7483, Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), The Supper at Emmaus,
about 1555, Oil on canvas 290 × 488 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris (146),
© RMN (Musée du Louvre)/Gérard Blot
One of the most highly regarded portraits by Veronese is La Bella Nani (around 1560-1565, fig. 2). The model is unknown, but from her clothes she appears to be a woman of the Venetian aristocracy, and the ring on her left hand suggests she is a bride. The woman wears a high-class blue dress with a pearl necklace, is adorned with rings and bracelets of rubies and sapphires, and has gold ornaments draped on her shoulders. Veronese has painted the jewelry in quick light strokes, and this free and bold portrayal reveals his genius.

The works of Veronese boast spectacular color. Critics of the 17th century described the painter’s lustrous palette as a mix of gold, the best quality pearls, rubies, and sapphire, along with the highest grade diamonds. The opulence and extravagance of Venice was portrayed most volubly in Veronese’s paintings of feasts such as The Feast in the House of Levi.

The Veronese exhibit runs through June 15.

The National Gallery, London
Trafalgar Square,
London WC2N 5DN
The United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7747 2885
Opening times:
Daily 10am – 6pm,
Friday 10am – 9pm
Closed on:
1 January and 24 – 26 December