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Paolo Veronese

Paolo VeroneseAKA Paolo Caliari

Born: 1528
Birthplace: Verona, Italy
Died: 9-Apr-1588
Location of death: Venice, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, San Sebastiano, Venice, Italy

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Painter

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Italian Renaissance painter

Paul Veronese, the name ordinarily given to Paolo Caliari, or Cagliari, the latest of the great cycle of painters of the Venetian school, who was born in Verona in 1528 according to Zanetti and others, or in 1532 according to Ridolfi. His father, Gabriele Caliari, a sculptor, began to train Paolo to his own profession. The boy, however, showed more propensity to painting, and was therefore transferred to his uncle, the painter Antonio Badile, whose daughter he eventually married. According to Giorgio Vasari, he was the pupil of Giovanni Carotto, a painter proficient in architecture and perspective; this statement remains unconfirmed. Paolo, in his early years, applied himself to copying from the engravings of Albrecht Dürer and the drawings of Parmigiano. He did some work in Verona, but found there little outlet for his abilities, the field being pretty well occupied by Ligozzi, Battista dal Moro, Paolo Farinato, Domenico Riccio, Brusasorci and other artists. Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga took him, when barely twenty years of age, to Mantua, along with the three last-named painters, to execute in the cathedral a picture of the "Temptation of St. Anthony"; here Caliari was considered to excel his competitors. Returning to Verona, he found himself exposed to some envy and ill-will. Hence he formed an artistic partnership with Battista Zelotti, and they painted together in the territories of Vicenza and Treviso. Finally Paolo went on to Venice. In this city his first pictures were executed, in 1555, in the sacristy and church of S. Sebastiano, an uncle of his being prior of the monastery. The subjects on the vaulting are taken from the history of Esther; and these excited so much admiration that henceforward Caliari, aged about twenty-eight, ranked almost on a par with Tintoretto, aged about forty-five, or with Titian, who was in his eightieth year. Besides the Esther subjects, these buildings contain his pictures of the "Baptism of Christ", the "Martyrdom of St. Marcus and St. Marcellinus", the "Martyrdom of St. Sebastian", etc. As regards this last-named work, dating towards 1563, there is a vague tradition that Caliari painted it when he had taken refuge in the monastery. He entered into a competition for painting the ceiling of the library of St. Mark, and not only obtained the commission but executed it with so much power that his very rivals voted him the golden chain which had been tendered as an honorary distinction. At one time he returned to Verona, and painted the "Banquet in the House of Simon the Pharisee, with Jesus and Mary Magdalene" -- a picture now in Turin. In 1560, however, he was in Venice again, working partly in the S. Sebastiano buildings and partly in the ducal palace. He visited Rome in 1563, in the suite of Girolamo Grimani, the Venetian ambassador, and studied the works of Raphael and Michelangelo, and especially the antique. Returning to Venice, he was overwhelmed with commissions. He was compelled to decline an invitation from Philip II to go to Spain and assist in decorating the Escorial. One of his pictures of this period is the famous "Venice, Queen of the Sea", in the ducal palace. He died in venice on the 20th (or perhaps 19th) of April 1588, and was buried in the church of S. Sebastiano, a monument being set up to him there by his two sons, Gabriele and Carlo, and his brother, Benedetto, all of them painters.

Beyond his magnificent performances as a painter, the known incidents in the life of Paul Veronese are very few. He was honored and loved, being kind, amiable, generous and an excellent father. His person is well known from the portraits left by himself and others: he was a dark man, rather good looking than otherwise, somewhat bald in early middle age, and with nothing to mark an exceptional energy or turn of character. In his works the first quality which strikes one is their palatial splendor. The pictorial inspiration is entirely that of the piercing and comprehensive eye and the magical hand -- not of the mind. The human form and face are given with decorous comeliness, often with beauty; but of individual apposite expression there is next to none. In fact, Paolo Veronese is pre-eminently a painter working pictorially, and in no wise amenable to a literary or rationalizing standard. He enjoys a sight much as Ariosto enjoys a story, and displays it in form and color with a zest like that of Ariosto for language and verse. He was supreme in representing, without huddling or confusion, numerous figures in a luminous and diffused atmosphere, while in richness of draperies and transparency of shadows he surpassed all the other Venetians or Italians. In gifts of this kind Peter Paul Rubens alone could be pitted against him. In the moderation of art combined with its profusion he far excelled Rubens; for, dazzling as is the first impression of a great work by Veronese, there is in it, in reality, as much of soberness and serenity as of exuberance. By variety and apposition he produces a most brilliant effect of color; and yet his hues are seldom bright. He hoards his primary tints and his high lights. He very rarely produced small pictures: the spacious was his element.

Of all Veronese's paintings the one which has obtained the greatest worldwide celebrity is the vast "Marriage at Cana", now in the Louvre. It contains about a hundred and twenty figures or heads -- those in the foreground being larger than life. Several of them are portraits. Among the personages specified (some of them probably without sufficient reason) are the Marquis del Vasto, Queen Eleanor of France, Francis I, Queen Mary of England, Sultan Suleiman the Great, Vittoria Colonna, Charles V, Tintoretto, Titian, the elder Bassano, Benedetto Caliari and Paolo Veronese himself (the figure playing the viol). It is impossible to look at this picture without astonishment. The only point of view from which it fails is that of the New Testament narrative; for there is no relation between the Galilean wedding and Veroneses court-banquet. This stupendous performance was executed for the refectory of the monastery of S. Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, the contract for it being signed in June 1562 and the picture completed in September 1563. Its price was 324 silver ducats, along with the artist's living expenses and a tun of wine. There are five other great banquet-pictures by Caliari, only inferior in scale and excellence to this of Cana. One of them is also in the Louvre, a "Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee", painted towards 1570-75 for the refectory of the Servites in Venice. A different version of the same theme is in the Brera Gallery of Milan. "The Feast of Simon the Leper" (1570) was done for the refectory of the monks of St. Sebastian, and the "Feast of Levi" (St. Matthew) (1573), now in the Venetian academy, for the refectory of the monks of St. John and St. Paul. In each instance the price barely exceeded the cost of the materials. The Louvre contains ten other specimens of Veronese, notably the "Susanna and the Elders" and the "Supper at Emmaus." In the National Gallery, London, are ten examples. The most beautiful is "St. Helena's Vision of the Cross", founded upon an engraving by Marcantonio after a drawing supposed to be the work of Raphael. Far more famous than this is the "Family of Darius at the Feet of Alexander the Great after the Battle of Issus" -- the captives having mistaken Hephaestion for Alexander. It was bought for £13,560 and has even been termed (very unreasonably) the most cenebrated of all Veronese's works. The principal figures are portraits of the Pisani family. It is said that Caliari was accidentally detained at the Pisani villa at Este, and there painted this work, and, on quitting, told the family that he had left behind him an equivalent for his courteous entertainment. Another picture in the National Gallery, "Europa and the Bull", is a study for the large painting in the imperial gallery of Vienna, and resembles one in the ducal palace of Venice. The Venetian academy contains fourteen works by Veronese. One of the finest is a comparatively small picture of the Battle of Lepanto, with Christ in heaven pouring light upon the Christian fleet and darkness on the Turkish. In the Uffizi Gallery of Florence are two specimens of exceptional beauty -- the "Annunciation" and "Esther Presenting herself to Ahasuerus"; for delicacy and charm this latter work yields to nothing that the master produced. In Verona "St. George and St. Julian", in Brescia the "Martyrdom of St. Afra", and in Padua the "Martyrdom of St. Justina" are works of leading renown. Celebrated frescoes by Caliari are in four villas near Venice, more especially the Villa Masiera. His drawings are very fine, and he took pleasure at times in engraving on copper.

The brother and sons of Paolo already mentioned, and Battista Zelotti, were his principal assistants and followers. Benedetto Caliari, the brother, who was about ten years younger than Paolo, is reputed to have had a very large share in the architectural backgrounds which form so conspicuous a feature in Paolo's compositions. If this is not overstated, it must be allowed that a substantial share in Paolo's fame accrues to Benedetto; for not only are the backgrounds admirably schemed and limned, but they govern to a large extent the invention and distribution of the groups. Of the two sons Carlo (or Carletto), the younger, is the better known. He was born in 1570, and was sent to study under Bassano. He produced various noticeable works, and died young in 1596. Gabriele, born in 1568, attended, after Carlo's death, almost entirely to commercial affairs; his works in painting are rare. All three were occupied after the death of Paolo in finishing his pictures left uncompleted.

Father: Gabriele Caliari (stonecutter)
Wife: Elena (dau. of Antonio Badile)
Son: Carlo (b. 1570, d. 1596)
Son: Gabriele (b. 1568)

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