Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 99

The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
possession of the Contarini family in 1646, how was
it possible that they could have passed into the hands
of Arundel, who died in October of that very year? In
fact, however, Ridolfi uses the word “erano” in relation
to the Contarini pictures – implying that they were
formerly in the palace – and it may be that Arundel
acquired the pictures soon after his arrival in Padua to
settle there in the first half of 1645. By this late date
he was ailing and short of money, and he and his wife
had already begun to sell off parts of their collection;
but perhaps the opportunity to acquire six Veroneses,
at least two of which were of outstanding quality, was
too tempting to resist. In that case, the paintings are
likely to have remained with him in his villa in Padua
until his death, and then to have been sent to his
widow in Amsterdam. If so, it follows that they can
never have formed part of his collection in London.
Fig. 6 / Paolo Veronese,
Vision of Saint Helena,
ca. 1570, oil on canvas,
197.5 x 115.6 cm, London,
National Gallery.
Fig. 7 / Paolo Veronese,
Group of Apostles
(fragment of an Ascension),
ca. 1575, oil on canvas,
170 x 178 cm, Olomouc,
Archbishop’s Palace.
Of all these works, the Christ and the Centurion is also
of special interest because of its provenance. It is
generally accepted that it is identical with a painting
of this subject recorded by Carlo Ridolfi in his Life
of Veronese, first published in 1646, in the Contarini
palace in Padua.23 Ridolfi records that the family
owned no less than twelve works by the painter, which
were perhaps all commissioned by their sixteenthcentury forebears; and in support of the identification
of this version of the Centurion with the Arundel-Haro
picture is the fact that, surely not coincidentally, five of
the other Contarini Veroneses – the Four Seasons and
the Vision of Saint Helena – likewise correspond to items
in the 1655 inventory (I.10 and 4). The implications of
these identifications seem, however, not to have been
considered. If Ridolfi recorded these six works in the
Unlike the Christ and the Centurion and the Four Seasons,
the Vision of Saint Helena (fig. 6) was not acquired
by Cárdenas, but remained for another generation
in Amsterdam, where it is recorded – probably by
1671 and certainly by 1681 – in the house of the
Italophile collector Philips De Flines.24 Otherwise, the
fate of only one of Arundel’s Veroneses is recorded:
the “Assentione di Nr Sigre” (I.3), which formed part
of the residue of the collection acquired in 1662 by
the brothers Franz and Bernhard von Imstenraedt
of Cologne, and which was sold on by them to the
Prince-Bishop of Olmütz (Olomouc) in 1673.25 Until
recently in Prague but now back at Olomouc, this
painting represents just a group of apostles (fig. 7);
but it has been recognized as the lower half of an
altarpiece of the Ascension, painted by Veronese for the
Capodivacca chapel in the church of San Francesco
Grande in Padua.26 According to an inscription on the
altarpiece, which remains in the church, a new lower
half for Veronese’s upper half was supplied in 1625
by the painter Pietro Damini, but it remains unclear
when and under what circumstances the original lower
half was removed. On the basis of a comment by
Richard Symonds, writing in 1652, Horace Walpole
thought that Arundel himself was responsible for
commissioning this act of vandalism;27 it seems more
likely, however, that the vandal acted speculatively,
and that Arundel, while realizing that the fragment
had been stolen from the church, acquired it through
a middleman. In that case, it is perhaps more likely
that he bought it when visiting Padua in 1613 or 1614,
than that he authorized its purchase subsequently at
long range.28
Of the remaining works in the 1655 inventory, the
“Venus et Cupido” (I.15) and the various portraits are
described too generically to be identifiable. It is perhaps
worth speculating, however, whether the “Centurione
piccolo” (I.18) is identical with the version of the subject
now in Kansas City – which is indeed very similar in
composition to the “Centurione grande” in the Prado, but
somewhat smaller in scale.29
The Imstenraedt brothers, who bought the Ascension
fragment, were the nephews of none other than
Everard Jabach, the wealthy banker and collector
who is known to have kept a close eye on the sales
of English collections after the Civil War, and who
subsequently sold some of the spoils to Cardinal
Mazarin and Louis XIV. Considering the avid taste for
the painter among French collectors, it is surprising that
none of the works by Veronese that came to France in
the 1650s and 1660s, either through Jabach or from
any other source, were from the Arundel Collection or
indeed, from any other English collection.30 Perhaps
this was simply because French collectors, and most
particularly Louis, realized that they could achieve
better results by turning directly to the original source
of supply: Venice itself. Thus it was that in 1664 the
French crown acquired the Supper in the House of Simon
(still at Versailles), previously in the convent of the
Servi – a painting by Veronese more monumental in
scale and more spectacular than any that had been
seen in London in the preceding decades, and one that
was to inspire Louis to pursue the even larger and even
more spectacular Wedding Feast at Cana.31


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