Posted on 6th June 2014

My introduction to Paolo Veronese was at the beginning of the 1970's when my late father Marshall Spink purchased in London a painting long thought to be just a copy. He had a great eye for pictures and thought it could be by the master concealed under centuries old varnish and over paint . I was just out of School so my knowledge of pictures was very limited but I remember this particular picture was huge and had a wonderful ornate carved frame.

I must have been right about the frame because shortly afterwards somebody tried to buy the frame but strangely didn't want the picture. My father fortunately didn’t sell the frame as he felt it was part of the provenance. The picture was sent away to be cleaned and for some reason it was not returned to the gallery for almost ten years. I never did find out why it took so long!!
There was a lot of excitement when it finally arrived back in the gallery . I remember my father had little doubt it was genuine and was very excited. Proffesor Pignatti the great expert eventually came over from Venice to see it . He confirmed it was indeed by the master and later published it in his catalogue raisonné .

I was naturally looking forward to seeing the current show of Veronese pictures at the National Gallery. I was not disappointed. This is wonderful exhibition beautifully set out in its spacious galleries which is so important because many of the pictures are on a grand scale and need to be viewed from a reasonable distance.
if one is super sensitive about condition (people are in the art world today) it could be said some of the pictures are thin. (areas where the paint is thin, and rubbed where the canvas has been folded and handled over time.)
One must keep remembering that these pictures have survived intact for more than four hundred and fifty years of turbulent European history including two World Wars.

Artists often have a favourite palette and Veronese is no exception. He uses a beautiful pastel pink which runs through much of his work. His colours where preserved are wonderfully vibrant as you will see.

I hold great store on instant visual response when looking at pictures before your reasoning mind takes over, as your thoughts are then swamped from what you have heard or led to believe is fashionable and perhaps even valuable.

This is a large and wonderful exhibition but I want to point out to you just six of pictures that had perhaps the greatest immediate visual impact on me .

Room One (Early Works 1545-1560)

N0 3 The Conversion of Mary Magdalene
This is a small early picture Circa 1548 that is beautifully painted and the colours are truly wonderful.

N0 5 The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and a female Saint circa 1550-55
The female Saint on the left hand section of the painting is beautifully observed and painted.

Room Two Portraits

The portraits are beautifully executed and observed and are in huge hand carved gilded frames. The sitters are portrayed in opulent dress reflecting the elegance and splendour of Sixteenth Century Venetian Aristocracy.

No 10 Portrait of a Gentleman (Circa 1560-5) on loan from Florence is a fine example.

Room Three Altar pieces and paintings for Churches 1560-1570)

No 18 The Virgin and Child with Saints Anthony Abbot and Paul the Hermit
Painted in 1562 for the Chapel Saint Anthony Abbot.
This is a wonderful painting that has an immediate impact on the viewer. The colour is truly amazing.There is a fantastic almost strange golden glow above the virgin at the very top of the picture. Below that is a most vibrant blue I have ever seen. It appears perfectly preserved.

Room Four Theatrically and Magnificence (1560-1680)

No 21 The Martyrdom of Saint George (About 1565)
Painted for the high altar of Saint Giorgio in Braida, Verona

This is a terrific picture the colours and draughtsmanship are truly wonderful.
My notes going round simply state’ wonderful picture’ which perhaps says it all

N0 22 The Family of Darius before Alexander. Circa 1565-7
This is a large picture in wonderful condition. The painting and sheen of fabrics of the younger members of the Darius family are outstanding and also seem beautifully preserved .

Room Five

No 33 The Adoration of the Kings 1573
This is a large composition and for me sums up the genius of Veronese, which endorses him among the best painters in sixteenth century Venice.

In conclusion its always so good to see a dedicated exhibition done well, and this Exhibition of pictures by Paolo Veronese has been given the space and importance at the National Gallery it thoroughly deserves.

I urge you to find the time to visit this wonderful exhibition before it closes later this month. (15th June 2104 ) It was not crowded when I went which was refreshing and tickets can be purchased on the door without a problem.

John Spink

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