Veronese is one of Renaissance Venice’s greats
Mar 10 2014
The National Gallery states that it is “the first monographic show on the artist to be held in the United Kingdom”. In their press note, it mentions Veronese as one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian paintings of the 16th century late Renaissance”. Veronese seems to have lost out in comparison to some of the more famous Italian painters who preceded him — Tintoretto was senior to him by a decade and Titian is said to be at least a “generation older”. One might say it was only after Tintoretto passed away that Veronese came into his own.
With Tintoretto’s death, Veronese became the undoubted leader among painters in Venice. At the time, artists in Europe were involved with the trend, known as mannerist art. This style is notable for its “intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities”. Veronese was initially inclined towards this style that had Italy in its throes for about 60 years between 1520 and 1580, but he gradually moved towards, “a more naturalist style influenced by Titian”.
Considered the undisputed leader among Venetian artists in painting ceilings, Veronese’s most acclaimed artworks are dramatic and “full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry”. At the monasteries in his hometown Verona and in Venice, one can see his huge paintings of biblical subjects, including feasts full of figures and marvel at the “magnificence of his spectacle”. The painting, The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, painted in 1548 and owned by the National Gallery, is a perfect example of Veronese’s unique style.
Veronese is also appreciated for “the chromatic brilliance of his palette” and has often been referred to as a “supreme colourist”. To fully appreciate this comment, one only needs to glance at the skin tone and elegance of the drapery and garments worn by the subjects in his paintings and acknowledge that Veronese achieves more than most, by showing us not just colour, but also texture and form. His painting, Portrait of a Lady, known as the Bella Nani, is a perfect example of “the splendour and sensibility of his brushwork”.
With the upcoming exhibition, art lovers will have the opportunity to view at least 50 of Veronese’s creations under one roof. Besides the 10 paintings in National Gallery’s collection, his major works were also gotten on on loan from European and American museums. Among these is an interesting series of four paintings, with each concentrating on a specific aspect — Unfaithfulness, Scorn, Respect and Happy Union.
One might hope that after this splendid effort to display the work of this talented artist, the world will sit up and give Veronese his due and join the list of admirers who recognised his genius, including some of the world’s greatest artists — Rubens, Watteau, Tiepolo, Delacroix and Renoir.
(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)