Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 45

For Jennifer Fletcher
The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s
narrative paintings
Compared to Titian and Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese
produced a fairly small number of independent
portraits. In the only study devoted to his portraiture,
John Garton catalogued just twenty autograph painted
works: sixteen half-length (twelve of men and four of
women) and four full-length (three of men and one of
a woman).1 To these he added another fifteen portraits
by “Veronese and studio.” Among the portraits by
Veronese are masterpieces such as those of Iseppo
and Livia da Porto with their children Leonida and
Deidamia (full length; now divided between the
Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence and the Walters Art
Museum in Baltimore) and of Daniele Barbaro (halflength; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), as well as the socalled “Bella Nani” (Paris, Musée du Louvre) (fig. 1).2
Despite their small number, Veronese’s portraits reflect
an inventive mix of lessons from Venetian portraiture
– from Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto, as
well as Paris Bordone and Palma il Vecchio – with
models from the Venetian terraferma and Lombardy.
How portraiture from Brescia and Bergamo, especially
the work of Moretto and Moroni, influenced Veronese
remains to be explored, but as Veronese’s chosen name
suggests, the artist remained close to his origins in
Verona and his schooling under Antonio Badile and
Giovanni Caroto, who provided enduring inspiration.
Notwithstanding Garton’s volume, many questions
persist in relation to Veronese as a portraitist.
Attribution and dating, of course, remain paramount;
it is often difficult to establish exactly when a portrait
was painted or what the involvement of the workshop
was. In some cases, this is directly connected to the issue
of the identification of sitters. Of the twenty painted
portraits catalogued by Garton, more than half the
sitters are unknown. We have no idea, for example,
about the identity of a number of gentlemen portrayed
by Veronese, especially those in the half-length portraits
in Budapest, at Palazzo Pitti, and at the Galleria
Colonna, as well as the magnificent full-length portrait
with the basilica of Saint Mark’s in the background,
now at the Getty.3 Identification is even more difficult
with the female sitters. Apart from the full-length
portrait of Livia da Porto Thiene with her daughter
Deidamia, all the females remain anonymous. Even
the attempts to identify the Louvre portrait as Isabella
Guerrieri Gonzaga Canossa and the “Bella Nani” as
Giustiniana Barbaro are not altogether convincing.4
Veronese did, however, produce a large number of
portraits if one takes into account those in larger
narratives, both secular and religious. While some of
these are discussed in detail in the literature, many
remain “hidden” and are rarely considered or ignored
altogether. With a focus on specific examples, this
article examines the typologies of those portraits not
envisioned as independent works.5 Veronese included
portraits in most of his works, and the patrons
responsible for commissioning paintings often appear
in these same canvases. One persistent problem, which
I will not explore here as it deserves a separate and indepth study, is that of Veronese’s own image. Whether
or not the musician in the middle of the Louvre’s
Marriage Feast at Cana or the hunter at Villa Barbaro
in Maser are self-portraits has long been a heated and
unresolved topic.


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