Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 111

The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
TABLE IV Veronese in the Hamilton Collection
Title in Della Nave list, ca. 1634 Hamilton inventory, 1649
(Waterhouse, 1952, pp. 16-17)
Present whereabouts
(Garas, 1967, pp. 76, 78)
1. Resurrection of the Widows Son of Nayme
KHM, Vienna inv. 52
2. Adam and Eve with their children
KHM, Vienna inv. 1514
3. Sacrifice of Abraham
KHM, Vienna inv. 3825
4. Scourging of Our Lord
Ex-Vienna, lost
5. Visit of the Wise men
KHM, Vienna inv. 1515
6. Resurrection of Christ
KHM, Vienna inv. 1542
7. St Sebastian
KHM, Vienna inv. 1538
8. St John Baptist
KHM, Vienna inv. 1545
9. Our Lady with 6 figures
KHM, Vienna inv. 50
10. Venus and Adonis and Cupid
11. Adonis or Hercules and Dianira
KHM, Vienna inv. 1525
12. Esther before Ahasuerus
Uffizi (fig. 16)
13. Mystic Marriage of St Catherine
KHM, Vienna inv. 1529
Not Della Nave
* Not included in the 1649 inventory, but listed in 1642/1643 inventory, 21st case
(“The virgin Mary Christ 1 other Virenes”) (Garas, 1967, p. 72).
Even the lost Flagellation is known from an etching
after Teniers for the Theatrum Pictorium volume of
1660, and several of the canvases feature prominently
in Teniers’s various painted views of The Picture Gallery
of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. Despite the prestige
they apparently enjoyed when in the possession of
the archduke, the Hamilton Veroneses with religious
subjects are not nowadays regarded as of very high
quality. The Esther, although in composition and
colour range closely resembling several of the master’s
most celebrated works of the 1550s and 1560s, is
somewhat mechanical in its re-use of motifs (notably
the dog, repeated from the San Sebastiano ceiling)
and in its handling; while the biblical stories likewise
seem to be workshop pictures, although dating from
rather later.76 Several degrees feebler in quality are
the two Madonnas and Saints (IV.9, 13). Only the paired
mythologies (IV.10, 11), each scarcely larger than
Charles’s little Finding of Moses,77 reveal the artist at
his poetic best: in both, the lovers are enveloped in
a highly atmospheric woodland setting, evoked with
fitful lighting and expressively broken brushwork.
Apart from those recorded in the four great collections
discussed above, very few other paintings by Veronese
appear to have reached early Stuart England. None,
for example, are included in the lists of works owned
by the 4th Earl of Pembroke, or by the 10th Earl of
Northumberland.78 On the other hand, in 1651,
another Spanish envoy in London, the Count of
Fuensaldaña, sent to Haro a batch of forty-four
paintings, including eight attributed to Veronese,
from a variety of dispersed English collections.79
Although their provenances are unfortunately
unnamed, five of the Veroneses can still be identified.
They include three that were given to Philip IV, and
which are now in the Prado: the Sacrifice of Abraham
(fig. 20); the Penitent Saint Mary Magdalene; and the
Wedding Feast at Cana (a studio work, perhaps by the
master’s nephew Alvise dal Friso). Two others, a Mary
Magdalene in the Desert and a Susannah and the Elders,
apparently always intended as a pair, are identifiable
with paintings now in the Doria collection in Genoa.
Apart, perhaps from the Feast at Cana, these are all
works of remarkable quality, and the same may have
been even more true of a sixth painting, an Ecce
Homo. This has now disappeared, but it was described
in Fuensaldaña’s list as “one of the best works ever
painted by Veronese,” and by 1667 it was hanging
in very distinguished company in the sacristy of the
Fig. 20 / Paolo
Veronese, Sacrifice of
Abraham, ca. 1580s,
oil on canvas, 129 x
95 cm, Madrid, Museo
Nacional del Prado.
From all this it may be concluded that while many
of the sixty or so paintings by Veronese brought to
England in the decades before the Civil War were
run-of-the-mill productions, a significant minority
was of very high quality indeed. But only one of
them – the Venus, Mars, and Cupid brought back by
Charles from Spain in 1623 – was (presumably) not
re-exported;81 and at most two others were ever to
return.82 The next century and a half was to be
a fallow period in the history of the appreciation
of Veronese in Britain. In striking contrast to the
very high reputation he enjoyed in Italy, and even
more in France in the later seventeenth and earlier
eighteenth centuries,83 British collectors remained
largely indifferent to Veronese, while critics such
as Richardson and Reynolds were downright
disapproving. Only from about the 1770s, and
especially following the exhibition and sale of the
Orléans collection in London in 1798-1799 – a
collection astonishingly rich in major works by the
painter – was there a revival of the taste for Veronese
that had existed in the days of King Charles.


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