Exhibition: Veronese in Renaissance Venice

The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese 1570

Texture is king! Both the opulent textiles represented in the paintings as well as the 3D landscape of the paint itself, all the textures are equally sumptuous, saturated and striking. This exhibition brings together so many iconic pieces of the great Venetian painter that it’s really an event you shouldn’t miss. Event is a very apt description as one feels like a spectator at a party in some Venetian Pallazzo or palladian Villa surrounded by all these large canvasses.

The pomp and pleasure of the larger works are interspersed with the intimacy of some of his smaller pieces and portraits. Veronese masterfully plays with the spectator in most of his pieces. His large commissions that once decorated the walls of various Palazzi  often integrate the commissioning family which forms a bridge between our world and the one depicted in the religious or mythological scenes. In the dramatic depiction of Perseus and Andromeda the city in the background, clearly inspired by Venice, is populated by people gazing at this scene as it unfolds on their doorstep, a very witty way of portraying Venice as the successor to the civilisations of classical antiquity.

The National Gallery has managed to unite its already fine collection of paintings by the artist with some great loans from collections all over the world to bring us this visual feast. We need to thank the climate in Venice for the fact that so many of his monumental works have found their way into various museum collections. In contrast to for instance Florence, Venice isn’t an ideal place for Frescoes. Painters like Veronese therefore often opted for canvas rather than plaster as a support for their large paintings. Sadly this also means  many of his works are now viewed as framed objects, and not as part of the interiors of the rich and famous of the Veneto of a bygone age.  If there is any fault to be found in this exhibition it is perhaps that the physical historical context of many of his altar pieces, ceiling paintings and murals hasn’t been recreated or visualised in some form or other.  This doesn’t detract from the overall pleasure of the exhibition however, and the hanging of the paintings in the classically inspired rooms of the National Gallery very successful.

The exhibition lasts till 15 June: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/veronese-magnificence-in-renaissance-venice