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Paolo Caliari

Painter of the Venetian school; b. at Verona, 1528; d. at Venice, April 19, 1588

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Caliari, PAOLO (usually known as PAOLO VERONESE), an eminent painter of the Venetian school; b. at Verona, 1528; d. at Venice, April 19, 1588. He was the son of a sculptor, Gabriele Callan, and was at first educated in his father’s craft, but his taste was towards painting; and he entered the studio of Antonio Badile, a Veronese painter of some repute. His first works were executed at Verona, and at Mantua, and at Castelfranco. In the last-named place he decorated the Villa Soranzo with large frescoes. He was summoned to Venice in 1555 and commissioned to decorate the ceiling of San Sebastian, his work giving such satisfaction that he was further employed to paint an altar-piece and smaller works in the same church. In 1561 the historical paintings he executed in a castle near Vicenza were brought under the notice of Titian, who selected him to carry out part of the decoration of the great hall of the Library of Saint Mark, and his three medallions were successful in winning for him the gold chain offered for the best painting in the library. In 1562 he painted his great picture, the “Marriage at Cana” (now in the Louvre), for the Convent of San Giorgio Maggiore, following it by several other great banqueting scenes. In the next year he was again in the church of San Sebastiano, painting two superb pieces of wall-decoration depicting the martyrdom of St. Sebastian and the execution of Saints Marcellus and Marcellinus. In this same year he decorated in masterly style the Palladian Villa Masiera, not far from Treviso. Soon after 1566, Veronese went to Rome in the suite of the ambassador of the Republic of Venice, Guniani, and carefully studied the works of Michelangelo and of Raphael; but he was speedily back in his native districts; the remainder of his life was spent in the service of the Republic of Venice, and he was buried in the church of San Sebastiano. He married the daughter of Antonio Badile and had a large family, two of his sons, Gabriele (b. 1568) and Carletto (b. 1570), adopting their father’s profession.

He is declared to have been a man of sweet character, amiable and generous, very affectionate towards his family, and greatly esteemed by all who knew him. He was a painter of prodigious facility and of untiring energy, and his paintings are exceedingly decorative, glowing with gorgeous color, and splendidly composed. His paintings are all frankly anachronistic, and he makes no pretension to depict religious scenes in the surroundings which should belong to them. There is no trace of religious feeling about them, and no attempt to produce such an emotion. The subjects were treated by the painter purely as offering good possibilities for pictorial representation, and he introduced historical characters into his gorgeous scenes quite irrespective of historic unity, merely with a view to decorative charm. His aim was magnificence, and the church of San Sebastiano is a splendid monument of his masterly skill in decoration. It glows with his sumptuous color. His “Vision of St. Helena”, in the National Gallery, London, shows us, however, that he had deep poetic feeling, such as is not always apparent in his better-known banqueting scenes. One of the peculiarities of his great scenes is his habit of introducing irreverent details, such as dwarfs, Swiss guards, dogs, cats, monkeys, and other animals, into his Scriptural subjects, and for so doing he was twice summoned before the Inquisition and severely reprimanded. The inquisitors were particularly scandalized at the introduction of the Swiss guards, as they were presumed to be Protestants, and at the figure of a disciple who is depicted in the act of picking his teeth with a fork.

The full-length family groups which this artist painted must be alluded to. In “The Family of Darius before Alexander“, every noble quality of the painter is seen to perfection. The coloring is superb, the touch sparkling and crisp, the composition unrivalled, while the stately male figures and beautiful women are worthy of all praise. He was exceedingly fond of gigantic compositions, and Tintoretto was the only painter who surpassed him in the use of huge canvases. Doubtless he was influenced by Carotto, Brusasorci, and other Veronese painters, and the effect of his early training in Verona can be seen in all his works, but in splendid pomp of color and in the presentation of a noble race of human beings in full enjoyment of all the delights of life he is a true follower of the school of the great republic. It has been well said that the beauty of his figures is more addressed to the senses than to the soul, but it must be borne in mind that his pictures have a feeling for grace and a splendor of life which had entirely departed from the other schools of the period. Venice contains numerous works by Paolo Veronese, and there are many of his paintings in Florence, Milan, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, London, Paris, and Castelfranco, while more than a dozen works by him are to be seen in Madrid. His decorative fresco work can be studied only in the district round about Venice, in the Villas Fanzolo, Tiene, Masiera, and Magnadole.

GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON


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