Veronese, Paolo 1528–1588 Venetian Painter

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Veronese, Paolo
Venetian painter

Along with Titian and Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese was one of the dominant Venetian painters in the late 1500s. Born Paolo Caliari in Verona, Italy, the painter became known as Veronese in honor of his native city. He gained a reputation as a master of ceiling painting, often of biblical or allegorical* subjects. These ceilings are notable for their dramatic treatment of space achieved through color and foreshortening*.

Veronese came from a family of stonecutters but turned to painting and studied with local masters. His family's craft may have influenced the artist, whose paintings reveal a strong sense of architectural form and space. His earliest works, dating from about 1546, are marked by sensitive brushwork and clarity of color. His figures, inspired partly by the Italian artist Parmigianino, are elegant in style.

In 1551 Veronese ventured beyond Verona to paint fresco decorations for buildings in Venice. He moved to Venice permanently in 1553 to work on ceilings for rooms in the Ducal Palace. Veronese's skill as a designer of ceiling paintings flourished in Venice, with major projects for the church of San Sebastiano and the Library of St. Mark (Biblioteca Marciana). His allegorical painting of Music for the library earned Veronese the prize of a gold chain. For other churches and religious buildings in Venice, the artist created remarkable paintings that portray biblical feasts in monumental architectural settings. One of these works, a painting of the Last Supper, brought Veronese before the Venetian Inquisition to answer charges of including inappropriate subject matter—specifically dwarfs, drunkards, and other vulgar characters—in this sacred scene. The artist changed the title of the work to Feast in the House of Levi.

Veronese had a number of important patrons, including the prominent humanist writer Daniele Barbaro. From the beginning of his career in Venice, the artist also worked for the state in the continuing decoration of the Ducal Palace, most notably the Hall of the College (Sala del Collegio). The allegorical ceiling paintings for the room celebrate the power, prestige, and righteousness of the Venetian Republic.

Toward the end of Veronese's career, his painting became more Venetian in style. While still notable for clarity of color and fine brushwork, the artists later works have a darker, more expressive background. For many years Veronese ran a large family workshop. After the artist's death in 1588, his brother and sons continued the workshop, signing the works produced there Haeredes Pauli (heirs of Paolo).

(See alsoArt in Italy. )

* allegorical

referring to a literary or artistic device in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities and in which the author intends a different meaning to be read beneath the surface

* foreshortening

technique that involves changing the proportions of figures or objects to make them appear to be three-dimensional

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Veronese, Paolo 1528–1588 Venetian Painter

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