Paolo Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice

Paolo Veronese, Conversion of Mary Magdalene

As you walk through Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, you will see a thrilling gallery hung with major altarpieces painted in Venice in the 1560s. The Telegraph reviews the current exhibition of the old master at Britain's National Gallery.

- By Richard Dorment, The Telegraph

'It may be doubted whether, as mere painter, Paolo Veronese has ever been surpassed.' That deliciously feline 'mere' in Bernard Berenson's assessment of the Venetian master neatly pinpoints the strength and weakness of his art.

For if Veronese never quite achieved the moral stature or depth of feeling you find in the art of Titian or Tintoretto, his mastery of each component in the craft of painting – drawing, composition, brushwork and colour – resulted in some of the most sensuously beautiful works of art ever painted.

And if Veronese wasn't exactly an intellectual, so what? Who else conveys the sensation of bare flesh coming into contact with soft fur, luminous silk or lustrous pearls?

It's not colour that Veronese learnt from the Venetians, but tonality. Compare the way colour registers as separate patches of paint in an early work such as The Conversion of Mary Magdalene to the tonal unity you find in his huge altarpiece, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine

As we know from Veronese's famous encounter with the Inquisition, he was an artist who needed to give his imagination free rein.

If, in a subject like the Adoration of the Magi or the Resurrection, such invention was out of the question, some ineffable connection between the artist and his subject isn't there. It's not that he paints on autopilot, like so many Roman painters at this time, but that the creative spark is missing.

But when it's there, what a painter he is.

You see it in his huge altarpiece from the church of San Giorgio in Braida, Verona, which shows the patron saint of England in the moments before his martyrdom. The subject is rare in art, so there was no preordained way to show it.

I wonder too whether a commission to depict the beheading of an English martyr may have fired the artist's imagination at a time when Catholic Europe was all too aware that Elizabeth I was about to create new martyrs. Whatever the answer, his performance here is electrifying.

READ FULL ARTICLE: Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, National Gallery, review (The Telegraph)

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How Veronese outwitted the Inquisition (The Telegraph)

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