Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 57

The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
The presence of portraits in Paolo Veronese’s narrative paintings
The central figure of a bearded man wearing a blue
outfit in the Family of Darius before Alexander (London,
National Gallery) may be a portrait of Francesco
Pisani, the patron who had commissioned the painting
for his Palladio-designed palazzo at Montagnana.42 The
young man dressed in white in the Choice between Virtue
and Vice at the Frick Collection in New York (fig. 11)
has been variously identified as a poet, a Jesuit priest,
and Veronese himself.43 In 2006, I wrote that this figure
was probably a generic representation of a sixteenthcentury man, but I now believe that it is the portrait
of an anonymous patron. A key painting here is one of
identical subject matter at the Prado (fig. 12).44 Instead
of representing a young man between Virtue and
Vice, the Madrid painting shows a young boy between
Fig. 11 / Paolo Veronese, The
Choice between Virtue and
Vice, ca. 1565, oil on canvas,
219 x 169.5 cm, New York,
The Frick Collection.
Fig. 12 / Paolo Veronese,
Youth of the Sanuto Family
between Virtue and Vice,
ca. 1580, oil on canvas, 102
x 153 cm, Madrid, Museo
Nacional del Prado.
the same two allegorical figures. Ridolfi describes the
canvas in the palazzo of Giovan Battista Sanuto as “a
composition of Virtue in the form of an old woman
crowned with laurel, and of Lust, and between them
he placed a young boy of that family, while both figures
invite him towards themselves.” 45 Both the Frick and
Prado paintings, therefore, likely depict individuals – as
a modern Hercules – choosing Virtue over Vice. Ridolfi
commented that the Sanuto painting was a cautionary
tale that “a man born amongst comforts and delights
will only resist the force of the senses with difficulty, and
so will often deviate from the path of virtue.”
Two of the most successful narrative portraits by
Veronese appear in large canvases made for families.


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