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German Renaissance artists vs. Veronese at the National Gallery, London (part two).

German Renaissance artists vs. Veronese at the National Gallery, London (part two).

David Franchi – Thursday, 28th April 2014.

The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, about 1548 © The National Gallery, London.

The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, about 1548 © The National Gallery, London.

“Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” is a marvellous exhibition, at the National Gallery, London. Veronese’s art incarnates the magnificence of Renaissance Venice, offering a vision of the lavishness and spectacle of sixteenth-century Venetian life.

Veronese was a versatile artist, working across a range of subjects, scale and techniques, from fresco decorations of villas and palaces to large-scale altarpieces and smaller devotional paintings. He painted mythological, allegorical and historical scenes as well as portraits.

This is the first monographic exhibition devoted to Veronese ever to be held in the United Kingdom. It presents fifty works, ranging from the beginning to the end of his career, coming both from lending and from the National Gallery Collection.

This exhibition is ongoing at the same time at the National Gallery together with the one on German Renaissance. In a Renaissance scenario, the comparison between the two shows is to disadvantage the Germans, of course. To be honest, it is difficult to reduce the impact of the Italian Renaissance, despite the phenomenon was not only local. Recent theories pointed out the European dimension of the Renaissance, but apart been the cradle of the movement the Italian contribution is undoubtedly immense and outclass the rest of the world.

“Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” is devoted to one of the most influential artists of the 16th century. This exhibition of 50 of his works, many of which are travelling to London from across the globe, is the most significant collection of masterpieces by the artist ever to be displayed in the United Kingdom.

The exhibition is organised in a chronological order, from the early works to the latest ones. Paolo Caliari (1528–1588) was known

The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and a Female Saint, about 1550-5, Pinacoteca Civica, Vicenza (A 77) © Courtesy Musei Civici Vicenza

The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and a Female Saint, about 1550-5, Pinacoteca Civica, Vicenza (A 77)
© Courtesy Musei Civici Vicenza

as Veronese – which in Italian means “the person who comes from the city of Verona”. He has been one of the most influential and famous artists working in Venice in the 16th century. His works can be found in the most significant churches, patrician palaces, villas and public buildings throughout the region of Veneto. At that time under the rule of the powerful Republic of Venice, the artistic production coming from the terraferma (so it was known the Veneto region) confirms the lavishness and majesty of the ruling city.

“Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” brings together works from every aspect of the artist’s oeuvre: portraits, altarpieces, allegorical decorations and mythological works. Paintings in this exhibition represent the very peak of the artist’s output at every stage of his career.

In the first room, it is possible to see the “Early works: 1545-1560” of Veronese. He was the son of a stonecutter. He joined the workshops of two local painters in Verona, Giovanni Caroto and Antonio Badile, and in 1566 married the daughter of the latter. Veronese soon developed his own distinctive style, merging a vivid palette with a passion for classical antiquity. He moved to Venice in 1555 and was later recognised as one of the principal artists in the city.

Veronese often included portraits of patrons in his religious paintings but produced few independent portraits. Works in the second room, “Portraits: 1555- 1565”, display portraits of men and women who personify the sophistication and grandeur of the aristocracy of Venice during the sixteenth – century. Veronese balanced this luxury approach with a psychological depth.

The third room, “Altarpieces and Paintings for Churches: 1560-1570” is focused on the commissions Veronese had when he moved to Venice, in 1555, such as paintings for altarpieces for Venetian churches and religious institutions across northern Italy. He worked in particular for the church of San Sebastiano in Venice, but also for other important religious institutions in the city.

The fourth room, “Theatricality and Magnificence: 1565- 1580”, explores the approach of the work of Veronese close to theatre. A part from the real effect the big paintings of the artist are giving – a strong sense of regal pomp and circumstance – Veronese was used to construct his scenes as if they were taking place on a stage organising his figures like actors in a play.

During the 1570s, Veronese developed religious paintings. The Room 5, “Art and Devotion: 1570 – 1580” focuses on how the work of the artist represents the spirit of the Catholic Counter-Reformation – when the Church tried to counteract the spread of Protestantism. After the Council of Trento (1545-63) images remained a key element to substantiate Catholic values. Veronese believed that religious paintings were intended for worshippers in the church but were also made for the private devotion of aristocrats. A master of diverse types and genres, in his religious works Veronese changed mode according to the requirements of his patrons, passing from large and monumental canvases for churches to smaller paintings intended for private contemplation.

Accordingly to the tradition of Venice, Veronese painted numerous mythological works. In Room 6, “Allegories and Mythologies: 1570 – 1580” examines Veronese’s celebrity about the mythological theme and for his large-scale allegorical painting, many of which were produced for an international a clientele. The exact meaning of most of these paintings got lost, but it was probably related to patron’s personal life.

The Rape of Europa, 1575 © The National Gallery, London

The Rape of Europa, 1575 © The National Gallery, London

Room 7, “Late works: 1580-1588”, displays works produced during the last years of life of the artist. By the early 1580s, Veronese had been at the forefront of Venetian painting for more than three decades. Now in his early fifties, he began delegating more work to his assistants, and his two sons – Carletto and Gabriele – joined their father’s workshop. During a period of staying in his country house in Sant’Angelo near Treviso, Veronese caught a violent fever and died a few days later in Venice, on 18th April 1588.

After his death, the family workshop continued for another ten years under the direction of Benedetto, the assistant and younger brother of Veronese.

The work of Veronese was endorsed by his Venetian peers, such Titian, and he worked alongside Jacopo Sansovino and Andrea Palladio, that he was established as one of the leading artists in Europe. His posthumous reputation has been as consistently high as his influence has been strong.

Sponsored by Credit Suisse, “Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” is curated by Xavier F. Salomon, Curator of Southern Baroque at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The exhibition “Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” has been organised in association with the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, to complement its exhibition ‘Paolo Veronese’ (5 July – 5 October 2014).

Currently ongoing until the 15th June 2014, the exhibition “Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” is on display at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.

“Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” has been organised in association with the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, to complement its exhibition ‘Paolo Veronese’ (5 July – 5 October 2014).

Currently ongoing until the 15th June 2014, the exhibition “Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice” is on display at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2014 by in Museums and tagged , , , , .

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