Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 51



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The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
A year later, in 1573, Paolo painted a Last Supper – later
transformed into a Feast in the House of Levi – for the
refectory of the Venetian church of Santi Giovanni e
Paolo (now at the Accademia in Venice). Ridolfi wrote
that in the large canvas Veronese had portrayed Fra
Andrea de’ Buoni “at the side with a napkin on his
shoulder, and that figure alone would be worth all that
was spent on the painting”; the friar was the man who
“offered Paolo a certain amount of money for this work,
which he had left over from charity and confessions.” 24
He is clearly identifiable sitting at the table on the right,
possibly even in the guise of one of the apostles at
Christ’s last supper – most likely Saint Andrew, his name
saint (fig. 5). Fra Andrea died, aged ninety-two, at Santi
Giovanni e Paolo, in 1588; very little else is known about
him or his role in the monastery.
As strange as it might seem, priests and patrons often
appear in paintings they commissioned for their
churches, whether as bystanders in religious scenes
or, less frequently, protagonists in specific episodes,
in the guise of saints. Bernardo Torlioni, the parish
priest of San Sebastiano in Venice, was responsible for
commissioning from Veronese (starting in the mid1550s and continuing well into the 1570s) most of the
decoration of his church, and he is likely portrayed
in two paintings in the apse of San Sebastiano. His
features were used for the Saint Francis of Assisi in
the main altarpiece and also for one of the spectators
in the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, on the right wall
of the apse – his face, like that of Damiano Grana
at Monte Berico, silhouetted against a marble
column.25 Between December 1561 and March 1562,
Fig. 5 / Paolo Veronese, The
Feast in the House of Levi (detail
showing the portrait of Andrea
de’ Buoni), 1573, oil on canvas,
555 x 1280 cm, Venice, Gallerie
dell’Accademia.
49
Veronese produced three altarpieces for chapels in
the Benedictine abbey at San Benedetto Po, near
Mantua.26 These were commissioned by the abbot,
Andrea Pampuro da Asola, whose portrait is in one of
the paintings. Pampuro is likely the man, in shadow,
depicted directly above the figure of the kneeling
Saint Nicholas in the Consecration of Saint Nicholas
(London, National Gallery).
In two cases, ambitious and narcissistic parish priests
were conspicuously portrayed by Veronese in their
churches. In the second half of the 1550s, the priest
Benedetto Manzini single-handedly oversaw the
redecoration of his church of San Geminiano at the far
end of Piazza San Marco, between the Procuratorie
Vecchie and the Procuratorie Nuove, in Venice.27
Manzini was close to the Barbaro family – who had
commissioned from Veronese the frescoes for their
villa in Maser – and had been rector of the church in
Maser from 1554 to 1564. He had been parish priest
at San Geminiano since 1545. The completion of the
decoration was celebrated with the commission of a
marble bust of Manzini, by Alessandro Vittoria, which
was placed to the side of the high altar in 1561 (fig. 6).28
About 1560, Manzini ordered from Veronese canvases
to decorate the organ of San Geminiano; these cost
the astonishing sum of 600 ducats. On the exterior of
the organ shutters, Paolo painted the titular saint of
the church, Geminianus, with Saint Severus.29 From
a comparison of the features of Saint Geminianus,
on the right (fig. 7), with those of the Vittoria bust of
Manzini, it is apparent that Veronese portrayed the
priest as the titular saint of the church.

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