Veronese, grandiose at the National Gallery

Did I tell you my first art love was Italian Renaissance? I developed my passion for art almost by accident in 2002 after visiting Italy. Because my friend took the wrong train, leaving me in the train to Milan alone, I read the Uffizi gallery guidebook from beginning to end. Reading about Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Bronzino, Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca sparked a great deal of curiosity and desire to learn more about Italian Renaissance.

According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine colour was frequently more vivid than the palette used in Venetian paintings which I disagree with. Venetian Renaissance is very distinctive in my view, by the brighter colours a la Bellini and the more visible brushstrokes on folds a la Titian. Venetian palette was characterised by the process of layering and blending colours and Venetian painters often worked out compositions directly on the canvas, using layered patches of coloured brushstrokes rather than line to define form, according to the Met. Local artists could access the finest and most costly pigments through Venice’s dominance in the oriental trade for spices and luxury goods, according to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Paolo Caliari Veronese was technically born and trained in Verone, as his name indicates, and I noticed he included marble, buildings and ruins from his home city. He became one of the most celebrated and desirable artists working in Venice in the 16th century, where he spent most of his life. He was endorsed by Titian, worked alongside Andrea Palladio and Jacopo Sansovino (source: National Gallery, London), and his art was influenced by Correggio, Parmigianino, and Giulio Romano (source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

What I didn’t notice in Veronese paintings before and which was prominent in the present National Gallery exhibition was Veronese’s depiction of fabrics. Veronese typically recreates religious events with lavishly dressed characters. I was mesmerised by the dress of Saint Catherine in Veronese’s ‘The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine (Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice). As Writer Marco Boschini described: ‘It is almost as if the painter to create his effects used gold, pearls and rubies, emeralds sapphires and purest, most perfect diamonds’.

I was afraid of seeing a repeat of the Paris Musée du Luxembourg exhibition in 2004-05 but the National Gallery show was different. The Paris show focused on non-religious, mythological and allegorical paintings of Veronese and as such, the current National Gallery is highly complementary. ‘Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice’ will be at the National Gallery, London, until June 15. The exhibition has been organised in association with the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, to complement their exhibition ‘Paolo Veronese. L’illusione della realtà’ (5 July – 5 October 2014).

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), ‘The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine’, about 1565-70
Oil on canvas. 373 x 241 cm
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice © Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della Città di Venezia e dei Comuni della Gronda Lagunare, Gallerie dell’Accademia

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