This room contains several later works of the Venetian High Renaissance, mostly large and gorgeous canvases, which reflect the magnificence of 16th-century Venice. They take the public fancy, but are deficient in the higher artistic qualities of an earlier period, though usually showing consummate technique and splendid colour.
The end wall to the R. is entirely occupied by the great *Paolo Veronese of the Supper at the House of Simon the Pharisee : one of the most popular pictures in the collection. The scene is laid in a vast High-Renaissance Venetian loggia of three arches ; the background represents a glorious imaginary Palladian Venice. The sense of space is bound-less. The Christ in the centre, however, is (very characteristically) less conspicuous than the group of lordly guests and more especially the figure of the gallant nobleman, in rich green robes, in the L. foreground, giving orders to the attendants. The general tone is merely sumptuous. Many of the domestic and almost grotesque episodes among the accessories brought down upon the painter the strictures of the Inquisition : he painted out some ; others still remain. This is entirely a regal and ceremonial, not in any sense a sacred, picture ; it was painted for the Refectory of the Dominican monastery of San Giovanni e Paolo, which oddly accepted it as a religious work. The subject is one of those which, like the Last Supper and the Marriage at Cana in Galilee, were usually selected as appropriate for the decoration of refectories. Glowing colour ; superb architecture; faultless perspective; dashing lifeand no soul in it.
Wall to the L.,
207. Paolo Veronese. Our Lady of the Rosary. This is a Dominican picture from the Dominican church of St. Peter Martyr at Murano. St. Dominic was the introducer of the Rosary; he is therefore represented, attended with angels, distributing roses to the faithful, who are typified, on the R., by a kneeling Doge in his robe of state, accompanied by senators, chamberlains, and the ladies of his family : and on the L. foreground, by a kneeling Pope, with his triple tiara, an Emperor, and another group of ladies. This is a fine ceremonial picture of its sort, spoilt by restoration.
Near by, skied, are four pictures by Paolo Veronese from the legend of St. Christina. Take them in the following order : 205, having broken her father’s idols of gold and silver, to give them to the poor, she is carried out into the lake of Bolsena by his orders to be drowned : 206, having escaped this fate, she is imprisoned, and visited in prison by an angel; 208, she refuses to worship the statue of Apollo : 209, she is scourged by two executioners at a column. But to Paolo, the legend is simply an excuse for painting a handsome woman in various telling attitudes. Strange to say, a church accepted them as sacred pictures.
212. Paolo Veronese. The Battle of Lepanto, (1571.) Below is the naval battle itself, a confused mêlée : above, in clouds, suppliant Venice kneels before Our Lady, imploring her aid to secure the victory; St. Mark, attended by his lion, introduces her and aids her suit ; to the L. are St. Peter the Apostle and St. Peter Martyr. This curious allegorical picture, so redolent of its age, comes from the church of St. Peter Martyr at Murano.
210, above, Tintoretto, (skied.) The Madonna and the Camerlenghi. Here we have a characteristic Venetian mode of painting portraits. To the L. sits Our Lady with the Child, surrounded by three Venetian patrons, St. Mark, St. Theodore, and St. Sebastian. In front of her, in attitudes of adoration, bow or stand the three Chamberlains or Treasurers of the Republic ; behind them again are their servants, carrying bags of treasure. It was usual for officials of the Republic to have their portraits thus painted in the act of worshipping Our Lady or St. Mark, or some other religious personage. Note how this practice grows out of the earlier little figures of the kneeling donor. But now the portrait is the real subject of the picture, and the Madonna has sunk into a mere excuse for painting it. Nominally, this work is an Adoration of the Magi : earthly rulers often had themselves painted in this scene, as symbolising the subjection of kings to Christ : here, the pretence is very thin, and money-bags, emblems of the treasury, replace the golden cups for gold, myrrh, and frankincense, which are usual in more ancient treatments.
213. Tintoretto. Crucifixion ; a noble picture, in which, however, all the saintly forms have assumed the voluptuous type of the later Venetian women. It was painted for the Confraternity of the Rosary at the Dominican church of San Giovanni e Paolo. Sombre sympathetic background.
214. Moro. Curious picture, only noteworthy for its quaint identification of St. Mark with Venice. The Evangelist presides at the naval conscription : view of the Riva dei Schiavoni.
217. Tintoretto. The Descent from the Cross, with Our Lady fainting.
219. Tintoretto. Assumption of Our Lady, noticeable for its luminous atmosphere, and for the apparent lightness with which the Madonna is springing upward. At the base, the Apostles surround the empty sarcophagus. Compare with the great Titian.
221. Tintoretto. Altar-piece of the church of St. Cosmo and Damian on the Giudecca. At the foot kneel the holy Doctors themselves, in their red robes, with their boxes of ointment and surgical instruments. In clouds above sits Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, clad with the sun, and planting her feet upon the crescent, with a singular background of the Plains of Heaven. To the L. stands St. Cecilia; to the R. St. Theodore, and a saint with a child, (I think, Antony of Padua.) Above, on the R., a flying angel. This is an example of the last stage in the theatrical grouping of what was once Our Lady with attendant saints in separate niches.
225. Tintoretto. Portraits of three Venetian treasurers, with their secretaries, represented as adoring St. justina of Padua. Here we see another good example of the way in which portraits finally got the better of the central sacred subject. In former times the donor asked for a St. Justina, with himself in the corner ; now he expects a portrait of himself, with St. justina in the corner. The figure of St. justina is very fine. These three Treasurers (1580) are Marco Giustinian, Alvise Soranzo, and Alvise Badoer : the name of the first probably suggested the particular saint to be used as a figure-head. The work was painted for the Palace of the Camerlenghi, near the Rialto.
The end wall of exit is occupied by several admirable *portraits, chiefly by Tintoretto, of Venetian nobles of the late Renaissance.
229. Bassano. Doge Antonio Memmo, in his cap and robe of office. A keen, eager man of business. Light, clear, and effective. 230. Tintoretto. Marco Grimani, Procurator of St. Mark, (1570,) a fine, thoughtful, vigorous head, vigorously painted. Rugged and able. Attributed by some to Palma the younger.
233. Tintoretto. Doge Alvise Mocenigo, (1570) with his cap of office. Painted for the Procuratie.
234. Tintoretto Andrea Capello, Procurator of St. Mark; a shrewd face ; from the Procuratie. Above these,
232. Tintoretto. The Woman taken in Adultery; chiefly remarkable for a fine voluptuous Venetian female figure.
237. Tintoretto. Splendid portrait of Battista Morosini
*245. Titian. Glorious portrait of Jacopo Soranzo. Documentary evidence ascribes it to Tintoretto. Among so many undoubted Tintorettos, from which this portrait greatly differs, it is difficult to admit the ascription.
243. Tintoretto. A very striking picture of four unknown senators, adoring the Madonna and Child. From the Magistrato del Sale.
241. Tintoretto. Another splendid portrait.
The ensemble of portraits on this end wall, above and below, gives a magnificent impression of the vigorous and virile Venetian aristocracy of this great period. I do not dwell upon each picture individually, because they are rather subjects for personal inspection and admiration than for that sort of explanation which it is the business of this Guide to afford. But all of them deserve attentive study.
The R. wall has works of Carletto Caliari, son and pupil of Paolo Veronese, and other artists of the same school, more or less incipiently decadent.
248. Carletto Caliari. The Way to Calvary ; ladylike St. Veronica presents her handkerchief to the fallen Christ. A feeble echo.
*252. Bassano (Leandro). The Resurrection of Lazarus; a good picture in its way, but the buxom Mary Magdalen in the foreground looks much more decidedly like a sinner than a penitent ; she is simply a careless voluptuous Venetian woman. Nevertheless, in technique this is perhaps its master’s best work.
255. Paolo Veronese. Crucifixion. Very unpleasing. The main subject, so tremendous in import, is relegated to a small portion of the picture on the extreme L., and that in the background : even of this, the most conspicuous figures are those of the too earthly Magdalen at the foot of the cross, and the good centurion, St. Longinus, represented in the very act of conversion. The rest of this big and unconsciously irreverent canvas is mainly occupied by Roman soldiers and a distant view of a fanciful Jerusalem. The subject is obviously one for which Veronese was peculiarly unfitted by temperament and training. Yet a church hung it as an altar-piece.
260. Paolo Veronese. The Annunciation ; a work which it is most instructive to compare with earlier Venetian and Florentine examples. All the old formal elements of the scene are here retained ; the angel Gabriel still holds a lily, and is still (as always) to the L. of the picture ; Our Lady still kneels at a prie-dieu to the R. ; a loggia, now grown with Renaissance expansiveness into vastly greater proportions, separates them as it ought to do : in the background is the usual “enclosed garden,” though its architecture has become most stately and Palladian. In spite of these formal reminiscences, however, of the ancient treatment, the whole spirit of the scene is utterly changed. The flying angel enters with gracefully arranged draperies, intended to be indicative of rapid descent through the air : his face and figure have the ample voluptuousness of all later Venetian painting. Our Lady’s countenance is still sweet, if insipid, and recalls somewhat of Titian, and even (in cast of features) of Bellini ; but she is merely a dignified, aristocratic, well-fed, unthinking Venetian lady. This is an excellent work of its kind, but certainly not a sacred picture. Architecture admirable ; colour fine ; drawing vigorous. From the Scuola of the Merchants.
264. Paolo Veronese. Coronation of the Virgin by the first and second Persons of the Trinity, in a vast assemblage of miscellaneous saints, many of whom can be more or less recognised by their symbols, including the four Doctors of the Church, and the chief apostles and martyrs. The reason for depicting this immense assemblage is that the picture was painted for the suppressed church of All Saints (Ognissanti 🙂 it is an excellent work in its way, but again proves Veronese’s total unfitness for sacred subjects, especially in the person of the blue-robed Madonna, who is simply a handsome and frivolous young Dogaressa. The saints below are painted for their full fleshly faces, their rotund anatomy, and their splendid draperies, not in order to excite devotional feeling. A fine specimen of Veronese’s colouring. Eastlake well compares it to the transformation scene of a pantomine.
265. Assumption, by Veronese. Here, once more, the formal elements of the Apostles looking into the empty sarcophagus are retained, but their attitudes are varied with studied care. Again a fine piece of colour.
On all the walls of this room are many other pictures de-serving, after their kind, of serious study.