Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 52

The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
The priest’s features are evocatively described by Adolfo
Venturi in 1937 in an article on Alessandro Vittoria: the
“powerful jaws, the deformed nose, the tempestuous
eyebrows, the pronounced lips which seem to betray
Moorish blood, in this bust of a resolute commander of
crews, rather than pastor of souls.” 30 Sixteenth-century
parishioners attending mass at San Geminiano would
have seen their parish priest celebrate mass on the high
altar, surrounded by two portraits of himself, one in
marble by Vittoria and the other painted on the organ
shutters by Veronese. Even more remarkable is the 1587
commission by the parish priest Bartolomeo Borghi of
the main altarpiece for his church of San Pantalon.31
The Conversion of Saint Pantalon (fig. 8) depicts the titular
saint of the church in the act of resurrecting a boy from
the dead, with Borghi on the left, in his parish priest
vestments, helping the saint perform the miracle. Even
more than Torlioni and Manzini, Borghi is shown as an
active participant in a religious narrative over the high
altar of his parish church.
Fig. 6 / Alessandro Vittoria,
Benedetto Manzini, ca. 1560,
marble, 72 x 54 cm, Venice, Galleria
Giorgio Franchetti at the Ca’ d’Oro.
Fig. 7 / Paolo Veronese, Saints
Geminianus and Severus (detail
showing the portrait of Benedetto
Manzini as Saint Geminianus), ca.
1560, oil on canvas, 341 x 240 cm,
Modena, Gallerie Estensi.
Fig. 8 / Paolo Veronese, The
Conversion of Saint Pantalon, 1587,
oil on canvas, 277 x 160 cm, Venice,
San Pantalon.
Not only priests, however, appear as saints in Veronese
altarpieces. Girolamo Grimani, a procurator of Saint
Mark’s, was a key patron in Veronese’s life. According
to Ridolfi, Paolo, as a young man “went to Rome with
Girolamo Grimani… who had been appointed orator to
the pope.”32 Whether or not Veronese actually travelled
to Rome with Grimani (the procurator went there on
three occasions, in 1555, 1560, and 1566), he is known
to have worked for him a number of times. According
to Ridolfi, Veronese frescoed mythological scenes on the
façade of Grimani’s country residence at Oriago;33 and
between 1582 and 1583 – toward the end of his life – he
worked for Girolamo’s son, Marino, on the decoration
of the Grimani chapel in the apse of San Giuseppe
di Castello. For the altar, he painted an Adoration of the
Shepherds, in which he portrayed Girolamo (by now
deceased) as Saint Jerome, on the left.34


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