by Paolo Veronese
This person is associated with: Renaissance, Mannerism
Italian Mannerist painter from Verona.
He trained under Antonio Badile in Verona.
He became famous with the decoration of the Villa Soranzo near Castelfranco at the end of the 1540s. The villa was destroyed in 1818 and its frescoes only survived in fragments.
The success of this first commission enabled him the access to the wealthy patrons of Venice, where he arrived in about 1551. Only four years later, he was asked to decorate the ceiling of the Council of the Ten in the Palazzo Ducale. This prestigious task - brilliantly accomplished - made him the equal of Titian and Tintoretto, the other two great Venetian painters, with whom Veronese was in competition. Then he moved on the church of San Sebastiano, where he worked occasionally between 1555-65, notably by painting three canvases on the story of Esther.
Veroneses's works impressed for their the use of brilliant colours. His palette was so intense that he gave his name to a colour: the Veronese Green, but his blue, yellow, and orange he used for the clothes of his characters were as well bright, and - contrary to many other paintings - have still retained all their strength today. These pigments perfectly matched the lush of the Serenissima - at the time the richest city on Earth.
The Venetian nobility was besides fond of his portraits, which he made in full-length as it underlined the aristocratic traits of the sitter. He also included representations of his patrons as donors in large altarpieces painted for Venetian churches, where many of them are still located. In addition, the humanist and prelate Daniele Barbaro ordered him the inner decoration of his Villa Barbaro at Maser, on the mainland, where he made a complex allegoric cycle in quadrattura.
Indeed, Veronese was also famous for his impressive sense of perspective, which allowed him to paint very large canvases, among the biggest ever made. Once his work with the Villa Barabaro finished in 1561, Veronese started to make scenes of biblical banquets for refectories in convents, but he actually used the biblical scene as a pretext to display both his virtuosity and the riches of the Venetian upper-class. These immense works were overcrowded with several dozens characters in luxury clothes, where the Christ is often barely visible in the midst of a pomp never matched since. As a result, the dimensions of these works broke the records. The most famous of them, The Wedding at Cana, reaches 10 meters in width and 6.6m in height in order to represent 130 characters! This work and The Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee were taken from Venice by Napoleon in 1797 and hung in the Louvre and Versailles - where they remain today as the biggest canvases of both collections.
Nevertheless, The Feast in the House of Levi, Veronese's largest banquet (13m wide), put him in trouble before an inquisition court (in 1573) because the Church did not appreciate the diversion of the biblical event of the Last Supper (the original title of the work) into a gargantuan party. He was finally acquitted after having changed the title and made a famous speech claiming the artistic freedom of the painter.
At the end of the 1570s, Veronese produced more mythological scenes, like in his new decorations for the Palazzo Ducale or the famous series of Four Allegories of Love (National Gallery) made for Emperor Rudolf II - his biggest patron during this period. His last important commission was however an ensemble of ten canvas of equal size depicting biblical subjects, called the Duke of Buckingham Series, after the name of its first known owner. Seven of them are now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which also owns the best collection of Veronese's works, as many of them precisely come from Rudolf II's collection.
Veronese could not have kept such a productive pace in his later years without the growing help of his workshop, notably his brother Benedetto and his two sons Carlo (or Carletti) and Gabriele, who continued to run the workshop after his death in 1588 until the end of the century. They signed their works Haeredes Pauli Veronensis ("the heirs of Paul Veronese").
Then, the painter of the Venetian grandeur was rapidly overshadowed by Carravaggio who favoured instead dark colours, strong contrast and much less pomp. However, his influence came back to the fore in the 18th century, mostly with Tiepolo, who tried to recreate the magnificence of Veronese in his compositions.
Richard Cocke, Veronese's Drawings, A Catalogue Raisonné, London, Sotheby Publications, 1984.
Detlev von Hadeln, Paolo Veronese, Florence, 1978.
Filippo Pedrocco & Terisio Pignatti, Veronese: Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence, Cantini, 1991.
Terisio Pignatti, L'Opera di Paolo Veronese, Venice, 1976.