Veronese At National Gallery

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.

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Tabish Khan 2

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  • Artseer

    It isn’t surprising that the Italians were reluctant to let the Martyrdom of St George leave the country given that its last field trip was with one Napoleon Bonaparte:

    • Tabish Khan

      I completely understand the reluctance to let famous artworks travel. For example, if I went to the Uffizi in Florence and wasn’t able to see the birth of Venus as it was on loan I would rightfully feel let down after having travelled so far.

      • Artseer

        True, although I suspect curators feel they can’t win: if they borrow/ lend works they are criticised (a) for the risks this involves to the artworks themselves, and (b) as you say, by people visiting the gallery who expect to see certain things. On the other hand, if they stage exhibitions which are based predominantly on their own collections (e.g. the NG’s current Strange Beauty), they are lambasted for charging visitors to view works that can ordinarily be seen for free.

        I would also feel a bit let down if I went to see the Birth of Venus and found this in front of it!! From last weekend:

        • Tabish Khan

          Good point. I suspect that the NG has had to promise many reciprocal loans to enable them to borrow so many great Veronese’s. But each gallery / musuem must have an ‘A-list’ of work that won’t travel – e.g. the NG didn’t even bother approaching le Louvre about the Mona Lisa for its Da Vinci show.
          As for the seemingly crazy person, I’m glad he didn’t attack the artwork. That leads to requirements like metal detectors at le Louvre and Michelangelo’s Pieta being behind protective glass. I’m really happy that the ‘yellowism’ vandalism at Tate Modern on the Rothko hasn’t led to similar approaches at our galleries and museums – that would tar the visitor experience.