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Veronese’s Allegories of Love

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T.J. Clark considers the paintings of Veronese. Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice at the National Gallery, London, on view through June 15, 2014.

Clark writes: "What seems to me the central feature of Veronese’s achievement – I could use many examples, but let us focus on the counterpoised bodies in Respect – is a unique completeness of empathy with the figures he paints, so that one feels him almost physically entering into them, male or female, and deploying their weight and balance as if from the inside. Even Titian cannot manage the business in quite the same way. The centre, or anchor, of Veronese’s vision was this: an internal, material, comprehensive inhabiting of bodies, and therefore an ability to depict their glittering outsides as manifestations of their weight, their mechanics: the set of their skeletons, their centres of gravity, their muscle tone. I really do not see any other painter who can do this; that is, who is able to have these facts of deep structure and self-propulsion appear wholly on the outside of things, in the fall of a drape or the lustre of a fold of fat… of course [Veronese] knows that outsides, if they are to manifest the feel of a complex, animate solid in motion, will have to be somehow supercharged, almost hypertrophied. Hence the famous gaudiness of his surfaces – the shot silk, the rippling silver stripes, the impenetrable brocade, the special acidity of his greens and yellows. His treatment of fabrics makes sense, I think, the moment one grasps it as a language – a specific high diction – in which internal mobilities and resistances are staged in two dimensions."

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