When the National Gallery announced its Veronese blockbuster, we felt both anticipation and trepidation. We were looking forward to seeing the works of the great Renaissance master in London, but having seen them in Venice we worried that his grand scale paintings would be unfit for travel.
We needn’t have worried as many of the larger works have made it to London, including the wonderful coup of having many paintings from Italian collections, who are notoriously reticent in letting their pieces leave the country. One of the grandest is the martyrdom of St George, which would normally be on display in a church in Verona. It loses none of its awe in the National Gallery as the visitor stands level with St George while the Virgin, infant Jesus and Saints look down from heaven.
The full range of Veronese is on display, many featuring his renowned use of sumptuous colours and his population of works with a panoply of characters. In the supper at Emmaus, as Christ dines with two disciples, a child appears from under his mother’s clothing, there are dogs in the foreground and a city in the background. But Veronese was also able to create a tender family scene — Mars and Venus look on lovingly as Cupid is frightened by an overly amorous dog and reaches for his mother’s hand.
Two of our favourite works feature Perseus swooping down to attack the sea monster before it is able to consume the sacrificial Andromeda, and the macabre beheading of Holofernes by Judith. It is hard to pick out any more favourites because each room reveals even more great masterpieces.
This is a fantastic exhibition of Veronese that highlights both the diversity of his work and exemplifies why he is considered to be one of the greatest Renaissance painters. This exhibition definitely lives up to the hype — in fact, exceeds it.
Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice is on at The National Gallery until 15 June. Tickets are £14 for adults, concessions available.