Saturday, November 23, 2013

Veronese, Paolo

The Feast in the House of Levi (Le repas chez Levi)
oil on canvas
555 x 1280 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venise, Italy

The Feast in the House of Levi or Christ in the House of Levi is one of the largest canvases of the 16th century. It was painted by Veronese for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, a Dominican friary, as a "Last Supper", to replace an earlier work by Titian destroyed in the fire of 1571. However, the painting led to an investigation by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Veronese was called to answer for irreverence and indecorum, and the serious offence of heresy was mentioned. He was asked to explain why the painting contained buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs and other such scurrilities as well as extravagant costumes and settings, in what is indeed a fantasy version of a Venetian patrician feast. Veronese was told that he must change his painting within a three-month period; instead, he simply changed the title to "The Feast in the House of Levi", still an episode from the Gospels, but less doctrinally central, and one in which the Gospels specified "sinners" as present; after this, no more was said.

Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance, born at Verona but active in Venice. He was the fifth child to a stone-cutter. Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto constitute the triumvirate of pre-eminent Venetian painters of the late Renaissance (16th century).

He was one of the greatest of all decorative artists, delighting in painting enormous pageant-like scenes that bear witness to the material splendor of Venice in its Golden Age. Marble columns and costumes of velvet and satin abound in his work, and he used a sumptuous but delicate palette in which pale blue, orange, silvery white, and lemon yellow predominate. He painted many religious scenes as well as mythological and allegorical works and portraits, but his penchant was for feast scenes from the Bible rather than incidents from Christ's Passion. His studio was carried on after his death by his brother and sons. He had no significant pupils, but his influence on Venetian painting was important, particularly in the 18th century, when he was an inspiration to the masters of the second great flowering of decorative painting in the city.